Nurse Cows Make Receiving Magic

Grass-fed-only receiving method uses nurse cows to settle calves instead of a human handler.

Published on: Nov 21, 2013

Todd Churchill doesn't like being Bud Williams to newly arrived stocker cattle.

Bud Williams taught thousands of people - either directly or indirectly through his family and disciples - to get newly arrived calves up and walk them around and teach them to trust their human caretaker and teach them where the feed and water are.

Churchill, who is president and co-owner of Thousand Hills Cattle Company, says Williams was a great mentor and actually gave him this idea for settling stocker calves.

"I am just pushing the envelope even further than Bud did," Churchill says. "Walking the stress off calves absolutely works and it is exactly the right thing to do when receiving calves.  However, I watched the way cows provide 'babysitters' for the calves while they go off and graze, and how calm and relaxed those calves are all day without mom, as long as the babysitter cow is close by. That gave me the idea that maybe I could make Bud's method even simpler by using a nurse cow instead of myself to walk them around."

Trading places: Todd Churchill took Bud Williamss idea for settling cattle at receiving time one step further by adding a "nurse cow" as the calming influence.
Trading places: Todd Churchill took Bud Williams's idea for settling cattle at receiving time one step further by adding a "nurse cow" as the calming influence.

Churchill explains how he prefers to have a nurse cow show his calves around the lot when they arrive. In fact, he says the nurse cow or an older and very calm steer is the centerpiece of his receiving success.

"With Bud Williams' method they have to learn to trust you. But a nurse cow is somebody they already know how to trust," Churchill says.

"And think about it," he continues. "The cows the herd chooses to be nurse cows and look after the calves are always calm and never high-headed and flighty. That's the kind of cow I want to receive my calves.

"I am not looking for a nursemaid job. This is what I use the babysitter cows or older steers to do."