First-of-its-kind: Canada hosts Ultimate Stockmanship Challenge
The first-ever Ultimate Stockmanship Challenge was held July 9-10, at the Pincher Creek Rodeo Grounds in Alberta, Canada hosted by Malcolm and Jenny MacLean, in conjunction with a low-stress stockmanship school by Dawn Hnatow and Whit Hibbard the day before.
The MacLeans, alongside Paul Kernaleguen, were judges for the challenge. The stockmanship school was an introduction to low-stress livestock handling methods developed by Bud Williams.
Topics covered in the morning class included benefits of low-stress methods as compared with traditional/conventional cattle handling and the basics: mindset and attitude; how to “read” an animal; how to prepare and handle cattle; and understand the principles and techniques.
The afternoon class focused on practical applications which included driving cattle, corral work and facilities, crowd pens, chute work, scale loading and loading cattle for transport.
The goal and intent of the clinic and the two-day competition afterward was to give participants enough understanding and experience to be able to go home and successfully apply these techniques on their own ranches or cattle handling jobs.
Paul Kernaleguen was one of the judges for this competition.
“I am part of a small company, Kattle Squared Services, in Saskatchewan, and before COVID-19 we hosted clinics for many different things, and stockmanship was always one of the topics. We’d try to bring people in to do the clinics, like the Williams family, or one of their senior students like Dawn Hnatow and Whit Hibbard,” Kernaleguen said.
“When Malcolm had this idea for a stockmanship competition, he contacted me and I got in touch with Whit and Dawn. We also got Bud Williams’ wife Eunice Williams’ blessing for the event, and thought it would be good to include educational things,” he continued. “Since it was the first competition of its kind that we know of, we tried to keep it as pure as we could, to keep it low stress and not put pressure unnecessarily on cattle or create stressful situations and have it turn into a rodeo.”
The event was a noted success. The first day, many of the contestants were a little nervous and maybe too cautious; they had a tougher time completing the tasks, noted Kernaleguen.
“At the end of the first day, we had a review/debriefing with the contestants and judges to let the contestants know low-stress stockmanship doesn’t have to be slow; there is a difference between unnecessary stress and proper pressure to have them move,” he said.
“The second day went very well and there were only one or two contestants who didn’t finish the course,” he continued. “We also added a lifeline option to keep it educational. If someone was stuck in a certain spot, they could ask for help. The second day, if someone tried something and it didn’t work, they could call the judges and get their opinion on how to get out of the situation.”
The owner of the cattle was behind the scenes prepping all the different pens. He said the cattle were completely changed by the end of the weekend and it was a positive experience for the people and the cattle.
Changing the industry
“If the cattle industry could just learn 10 percent of what Bud taught, it would totally change the industry,” Kernaleguen said.
There’s no shortage of things to learn when someone is working on understanding their animals instead of working against them.
“Humans are naturally set up totally wrong to do this very easily; we are still very much a predator and operate on predatory instincts,” he explained. “This is how cattle view us because of the vibes they get from us.”
“People think they can hide their emotions from animals, but Eunice once said, ‘The only reason these animals are still here today (surviving for thousands of centuries) is because they are so good at reading predators. We can’t bluff them. They had to survive in a world that was trying to eat them.’”
“Once you respect how sensitive cattle are to what we do, it changes the way you think about it,” mentioned Kernaleguen.
“When I first talked to Whit about this contest, he wondered if stockmanship is something that should even be in a competition. Yet, when I talked with Eunice she said, ‘People are always going to be competitive and that’s never going to change.’ So, this contest was a way to take advantage of that competitive nature, in a good way,” he said.
The competition was a great educational tool to help promote awareness of low-stress stockmanship.
Kernaleguen hopes everyone who attended the stockmanship challenge enjoyed it as much as he did, and that it will become an annual event to promote and raise awareness about good stockmanship.
“The more people who learn about this, the more animals get treated differently by the people taking care of them,” he said.
Cattle become easier to handle because they learn to respect and trust you.
“You have to be a little assertive, like a dominant herd member, but consistency is very important,” he concluded. “Cattle crave consistency. That’s what they trust and once you figure out how to do that, it’s easier.”
Heather Smith Thomas is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@ wylr.net.