The cattle industry lost a legend on Sunday, November 25, with the passing of Bud Williams. Bud was likely the greatest stockman to ever live and through his unusual out-of-the-box way of thinking pioneered the development of what we know today as low-stress stockmanship or cattle handling techniques.
However, maybe even more important than his cattle handling work was his ability to make others think differently and challenge conventional wisdom.
I never knew Bud. But still I can earnestly say that his teachings and philosophies have indirectly left a great influence on the way I now approach things in life. I have been fortunate to become close friends with some individuals that had very strong, personal relationships with Bud and his wife, Eunice. And while I never knew them myself, the day I got word of Bud’s death, my heart sunk.
Heart-warming testimonials to Bud Williams from Beef Producer Editor Alan Newport, and Dave Pratt of the Ranching for Profit blog hit home on the true good this man’s teachings had on the livestock industry.
In Pratt’s words, “There’s no doubt that Bud’s concepts and methods made things better for the animals but they also made things better for the people working those animals.”
Even today, it has been my observation Bud's methods are not appreciated nor practiced at near the level they should be. Instead, many producers continue to make excuses as to why these methods will not work on their ranch.
In addition, countless dollars are spent by our industry organizations putting on stockmanship demonstrations which, from what I can tell, have produced too little increase in the practice of low-stress cattle handling methods.
Would not this money be better spent actually teaching producers how to properly use these methods and showing evidence of the benefits they bring with them? One possible solution instead could be using these funds for sponsorship of stockmanship schools much like those previously taught by Bud Williams. Instead of just watching a brief demonstration, producers could attend an in-depth one or two day school where they are immersed in the principles of stockmanship and shown proper handling techniques through live demonstrations and video. In return, this educational experience could count towards a certification such as that provided by the National Beef Quality Assurance program.
Furthermore, some of these dollars could be used to fund research that provides evidence not only the known benefits of stockmanship methods on animal performance but also explores other possible advantages they provide of which we are currently unaware.
In a previous blog I discussed my thoughts on why the cattle industry still has a long way to go when it comes to true stockmanship. Bud Williams was right when he said, “Before you can get things right, first you have to get them wrong.”
I certainly feel that no other time is this truer than the current. Luckily, for our industry’s sake, Bud’s methods and philosophies will live on in the many individuals he has influenced over his lifetime. Through these individuals it is my hope that the paradigm shift on true stockmanship so badly needed in our industry will become a reality.