CA: Stockmanship Training Offered in Tulare

Presenting a two-day training program were, from left, Dr. Robert Hagevoort of New Mexico State; Dr. Ron Gill, Texas Extension; Curt Pate, Ryegate, Mont., and Jill Scofield, Calif. Beef Council -DairyBusiness photo by Joel Hastings

Employee training and safe animal handling was the focus of a session held Mar. 20 – 21 at the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching & Research Center in Tulare, Calif.  Sixty people attended the sessions presented by the California Beef Council with support from the Beef Checkoff program and the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program.  Merck Animal Health and TheZenith insurance agency were sponsors.



Dr. Robert Hagevoort, an associate professor and Extension dairy specialist with New Mexico State University was a featured presenter along with well known livestock veterans Curt Pate from Montana and Dr. Ron Gill, Texas Extension specialist. Day one was in a classroom setting while on day two, the all three worked with a group of Jersey cattle to demonstrate proper handling techniques.

Dr. Hagevoort coordinates the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium and offered a great deal of information about the need for dairy farm employee training for high performing dairies.  Several of his key points…

  • Does your staff know how and why to take care of the animals?
  • On a larger dairy, you are the manager of people… managing the people who manage the cows.
  • Protocols aren’t training materials.
  • Language issues – not Spanish but Ki’chi from Guatemala and several Central American countries.
  • Do not underestimate the power of recognition in motivating people.
  • Animal welfare does not live in a vacuum… it’s an outcome.
  • Successful dairies will be the ones with a winning culture.
  • How can I become the Bill Belicheck of dairy coaching and management, winning the Super Bowl for my dairy year after year?
The California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab, opened just a year ago, is on the campus next door to the VMTRC.

Curt Pate, Ryegate, Mont., is a nationally known horsemanship and stockmanship trainer and teacher. He brings a ‘for profit’ mentality to his work showing the benefits for the animals and the owners of proper livestock handling.  He also recognizes the public scrutiny surrounding livestock production.

During his work handling cattle, he described his approach and predicted the movement of the animals. Working with a dozen Jersey cattle, he demonstrated three kinds of pressure… drive, draw and maintain.

Several of his points included:

  • Increasing production of dairy cattle through proper stockmanship
  • We want them learning when we work with them, not anticipating danger
  • Every experience the cow has in the parlor should be positive… cows should see it as the safest place on the dairy
  • The best job in the world to work with animals… make it enjoyable.
  • Move the cow’s mind… then her feet will follow… and that doesn’t bother them.

Dr. Ron Gill is not only an educator but an experienced rancher, providing technical expertise to beef and dairy cattle owners and managers in nutrition, management and livestock handling. As with the other presenters, he offered practical advice.

Points he made included:

  • A culture of animal care must be created on the dairy farm… if you see something, say something. You must overcome fear of retribution.  Create the expectation that mistreatment will be handled right now.
  • It seems like in the cattle industry, dairy or beef, we are the only ones who expect the animals will know what we want them to do and that they will do it.  We train dogs, we train horses… but not our cows.  We don’t have to do a lot. We don’t set them up for success. Then we fuss about how they act.
  • Once they start responding to you, they will respond if you ask them. Repetition is key
  • Like raising feral children. If they’re feral when their young, they’ll be feral when they are older.
  • Teach them core behaviors early

NCBA is putting on a number of these stockmanship events across the country but this was the only one for dairy.  Sponsored by Merck, in Tulare Dick Andrews from the company explained the eight training modules available for producers to use with their staffs which can be found at

The 60 attendees were welcomed by Dr. Terry Lehenbauer, director of the VMTRC, along with Jill Schofield of the California Beef Council and Dr. Michael Payne of the Calif. Dairy Quality Assurance Program.


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