How do you move a herd of cattle from one place to another?
When I lived in Nevada, most of my neighbors did it the old fashioned way–they had a cattle drive. Sometimes the cows were driven many miles. It wasn’t unusual for it to take two or three days to move the cattle from the home ranch to their summer pasture. At the the end of the grazing season, the cattle would then be driven back to the home ranch.
Cattle tend to stick together, which is a blessing, but it seems there’s always a few who want to go somewhere other than where they’re supposed to. This is why there are riding positions during a cattle drive. The point rider rides near the front, choosing the
direction the head will go. Swing or flank riders ride beside the cattle on both sides, the swing rider toward the front of the herd and the flank riders toward the read. The very worst position to ride is drag–at the the rear of the herd. The drag riders are often choked with dust, and may wear bandannas over their nose and mouths.
Dogs are often essential partners during a drive, keeping cows together and making sure that there are no laggers.
There are other ways to move cattle. On our ranch, where we never move the cattle off the property, we open gates and chase them where they need to go. There’s always a lead cow. In our case it’s an older cow named 5X. She’s the one who charges to the front and tells the rest of the girls where to go. If we can get 5X pointed in the direction we want her to take everyone, all is well.
Another way to move cattle is to lure them along. We got stopped on our way to town the other day by a neighbor driving a tractor with a round hay bale on the back, and around 400 cows following him. The front cows were nibbling on the bale and the ones in the rear were following along because
that’s what herds do–they stick together. There were a couple of guys on 4-wheelers riding drag. It was fun to watch.
Of course there’s always the option of loading the cattle into a truck and driving them to their pasture. That’s the fastest way to go a distance, but it’s also expensive, which is why so many people stick with the tried and true and drive their cattle the old fashioned way.