Farm Progress

Montana rancher has interesting ideas about disciplines, as well as grazing. Here they are.

R. P. 'Doc' Cooke, Blogger

September 13, 2017

2 Min Read
Montana rancher Ray Banister is known for his "boom-bust" grazing ideas, as well as his thoughts on management and animal discipline.canicula1-iStock-Thinkstock

When I talked to my friend Ray Bannister at Wibaux, Montana, in mid July, he said he had received less than 4.5 inches of total moisture in 2017.

He was not considering destocking since he has grass and hay enough to go another 14 to 18 months.

That's a success story in the droughty Northern Plains this year and makes me think it might be a good time to review some of his philosophies. Banister invented the term "boom and bust" for grazing management and natural principles in general. However, he also blends those with animal behavioral principles in his overall management.

I’ll take a shot at repeating discipline principles that he has shared with me in the past few years.

Bannister defines his axioms of discipline as treatments that produce self-control, orderliness and efficiency.

Pain is the fastest way to a learning experience. A child seldom touches a hot stove more than one time.

Speed and reaction in discipline must be immediate and not result in wrath (long term dislike or hate). The personality and demeanor of the animal must be fit into the discipline. A border collie and an Australian shepherd are two different personality types and must be disciplined as such.

Reward must be consistent and immediately follow the discipline. The cattle need a bite of some good stuff after being moved.

Consistency of discipline is a must, in that random discipline leads to neurosis. This should be self-explanatory.

Short and simple discipline is a must. Comparatively, there are only 10 commandments and Jesus said all could be summed up in two great commandments.

Instant forgiveness must immediately follow discipline. When it is over, it needs to be over.

Raise or “jack-up” the discipline until the desired result is attained. Criminal activity stops when the risk becomes too high.

Discipline needs to be public. I am not talking about the sale barn. The truth is that less than 10% of cattle ever check or test an electric fence. The rest watch and see what happens; another plus in the favor of high-density grazing.

Discipline is non-effective when applied in partnerships of any kind. Marriage is a good example.

Ray Bannister and I both advocate and practice low-stress handling as taught by the late Bud Williams. These principles of discipline fit the program.

Animal behavior, like our behavior, is a function of consequences. About 10% of all populations must be disciplined and brought under control due to their outlaw nature. They are smart and innovative but must be disciplined. Culling is permanent discipline.

Chances are we all own some of these animals, and have some in our family. A regular review of the axioms might , be positive.

Thank you, Ray.

About the Author(s)

R. P. 'Doc' Cooke


R. P. "Doc" Cooke, DVM, is a mostly retired veterinarian from Sparta, Tennessee. Doc has been in the cattle business since the late 1970s and figures he's driven 800,000 miles, mostly at night, while practicing food animal medicine and surgery in five counties in the Upper Cumberland area of middle Tennessee. He says all those miles schooled him well in "man-made mistakes" and that his age and experiences have allowed him to be mentored by the area’s most fruitful and unfruitful "old timers." Doc believes these relationships provided him unfair advantages in thought and the opportunity to steal others’ ideas and tweak them to fit his operations. Today most of his veterinary work is telephone consultation with graziers in five or six states. He also writes and hosts ranching schools. He is a big believer in having fun while ranching but is serious about business and other producers’ questions. Doc’s operation, 499 Cattle Company, now has an annual stocking rate of about 500 pounds beef per acre of pasture and he grazes 12 months each year with no hay or farm equipment and less than two pounds of daily supplement. You can reach him by cell phone at (931) 256-0928 or at [email protected].

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