If you find
Working or driving animals hard increases stress, lowers production and lowers the eating quality of the resulting meat
Animals want to go in different directions to where you want them to go
Animals don’t need to be driven as much if you let them devise their own tracks.
You may have to guide them initially to minimize environmental damage but they will be more comfortable and thus easier to work when they follow their chosen path.
They also pose less danger to you and to themselves, their stress levels are lower, their productivity is usually higher and the quality of their meat is higher.
Once it is clear what is a suitable track for them, it can be turned into a laneway that makes it easy to move animals around the farm.
Of course, a lot of it can be worked out earlier and laid out for them if you have a good understanding of animals.
A good example of how easy it is to muster animals once the laneway is worked out was when my kids (Tegan aged just under 5 and Otis just under 3 at the time) for the first time brought in a mob of hundreds of sheep for shearing. Once the animals had started moving to the gate out of the paddock they were in, the kids brought them the last few hundred metres (yards) through several gates and across several wide paddocks and into the yards.
All the kids had in the way of support was a rattle each.
Their mother and I stayed way behind and watched in delight.
This worked because I had read enough about animal behavior and because I had watched how the sheep moved or didn’t.
This was prompted by the extreme difficulty we had getting them into the yards when we bought the farm. It was a nightmare.
- installed some straight runs along fencelines through large paddocks
- put in some diagonal fencing to take out a corner that always seemed to be a preferred spot for the sheep to head to and stay in and
- made it so that when the sheep entered the shearing shed paddock, it was a gentle run uphill into the yards.
That basically solved all the mustering problems and meant we didn’t need a sheepdog — saving a mouth to feed, a lot of time to train it and, given the infrequency of operations, saved a dog from being bored.