Training the weaners

Host: Anthony Lagoon Station
Written by Georgia Clark – AACo Graduate Program 2016.

I have spent the last few days mustering, drafting, trucking, and walking away young heifers. After mustering and drafting older cattle earlier in the year, working with these girls has been a dream! They are so calm, quiet, and walked on a steady trail of two-by-two, one that the ants-go-marching would be jealous of!

3.1 copyAnthony heifers at a steady gate heading towards a turkeys nest.

What makes these young gals so different to the older lasses we sometimes see get a little bit hot under the collar and never want to do what they are told!?

A number of different things contribute to the temperament of cattle, including stockmanship, environment, breed etc., however Anthony Lagoon is seeing great success with its Weaner Breaking program.

Weaners are calves that are strong enough and old enough to be pulled off their mothers. This is generally when they reach between 150-250kgs however some weaners evade mustering in their first year as a calf, like little Houdini’s, and can come in to be weaned at 300+kgs!

Weaner Breaking is a process of training cattle to understand the different activities that they will work through in their lifetime on a station – almost like sending them to school on how to be cooperative cattle!

3.2 copyWeaner heifers learning about yards and gates.

Being exposed to a whole range of experiences and environments prepares them for many different situations – this is done in the hope of keeping cattle calm and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of both cattle and the stock camp alike. As they are relatively uneducated when they are first mustered they rely on their mothers to walk in a mob and move through the yards. After they are weaned, they need to put on their big kid pants and learn to do it by themselves!

A large part of weaner breaking involves spending lots of time with the weaners on horseback, two-wheeler bike, with dogs, and on foot – teaching them that when you move where the human, dog, horse, or bike, needs you to go the “pressure” (how close the stockman is to the cattle) comes off. There are many hours spent in yards educating about movement, stopping, starting, moving through pens, and walking through gates. Once the weaners have learnt some manners in the yards – they are let out into a paddock to learn to walk in a mob – nice and steady, following a leader (generally a horseman) and stopping and starting when they are asked. After a couple of short practice walks, the weaners are then walked out to their new paddock where they will hopefully remember all this schooling and will behave the next time the need to be mustered!

3.3 copyUsing a bike move these weaners around through a small paddock.

Here at Anthony’s we have a terrific Weaner Breaker – Paddy, who is responsible for the education of all the weaners here and over at Eva Downs.

3.4 copyPractice makes perfect, look at these guys stepping it out, with little help from us!

So it is Paddy and the stock camp who I have to thank for the brilliantly behaved gals I have been walking and working with over these last few days!

Happy Weaning!

– The Rookie Graduate