The Thompson Rivers University Applied Sustainable Ranching program offered students and visiting guests such as Laura Doyle from Langley the opportunity to learn stockmanship from Curt Pate. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Stockmanship workshop teaches TRU students livestock handling

Students in the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program recently enjoyed the opportunity to learn about stockmanship from one of North America’s most renown livestock handlers, Curt Pate from Montana.

For three days Pate worked with the students at the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds.

“We started out with horsemanship and some were experienced with horses and some had only ridden a horse once before,” Pate said at the end of the first day of the workshop. “It was really fun to see that and the transitions they made.”

With horsemanship, the idea is to put the rider in the right place at the right time to get a cow to turn, stop and go, he explained.

“It is not like a cutting contest, what I am trying to do is show them where they can position themselves to work the animals properly. There’s no fancy horsemanship, just really basic good stuff that works for stockmanship skills.”

Once the students established the basis, Pate said, then some cattle were brought in to the ground so the students could learn how to pressure the cattle and release the pressure.

Pate has been to Williams Lake and to the Gang Ranch before where he taught the same course last year to the ranching students, but said being able to teach in the Stampede Grounds was a bonus.

“This is such a great facility,” Pate said. “It’s really nice because you can do so many different things here.”

Pate teaches stockmanship in Canada and the U.S., and is headed to Mexico in the near future to teach it as well.

“The nice thing about it is it doesn’t matter where you go, Canada, U.S., Mexico – I’ve been over to Europe – cattle all work the same. The basics of cattle handling, the language might be different, the style might be different, but the cattle are all the same.”

On the second day the course focused on working on footwork, where the students worked in pens and simulated processing cattle and sorting cattle through the chutes as if they were in corrals at an auction market, feed yard or at a ranch.

By the third day the students were back on the horses and learning how to load livestock into a trailer.

“Everything that has to do with production agriculture, we’re doing it,” Pate said.

For first-year student Majeed Nashiru, who hails from Ghana in West Africa, the workshop was part of an experience he is loving every moment of.

“I got here in April and started the program on the first of May,” Nashiru said.

In the ranching program the students live on a ranch as part of the program, gaining work experience which compliments their course work.

“It was my second time on a horse,” he said of the stockmanship workshop experience. “My first time was at David Zirnhelt’s when we moved four horses and left some of them on a pasture and brought the rest back. It was about a 10-minute ride.”

To prepare for the stockmanship course, Nashiru went to Caribou Spurs in Williams Lake to purchase some Western clothing.

“It was great,” he said. “I just wanted to get some boots but then I got there and said ‘I have to dress as a cowboy, it’s about time.’”

Nashiru graduated from high school three years ago in Washington State where he won a scholarship to attend an exchange program. Before coming to TRU he was working in Ghana for a company that sells agricultural machinery.

While at TRU in Williams Lake he has been staying with Brian and Muriel Garland who led a campaign to help him attend school here.

His placements through the program so far have seen him at Highlands Irrigation in Williams Lake, at the Zirnhelt Ranch and at Indian Gardens Ranch in Savona for the last two months.

“Ted Haywood-Farmer who owns the ranch loves him,” said the program’s co-ordinator Gillian Watt. “Majeed is helping Ted put in a five-kilometre irrigation line and that is something Majeed wants to be able to take back to Ghana.”

Two-thirds of the population in Ghana relies on agriculture and has a farm of some sort, Nashiru said.

“You don’t see very much irrigation, everyone back home relies on rain and they don’t use practices that will give them bumper harvests each year.”

Watt said the stockmanship workshop was made possible with support from Gord Collier at Zoetis, an animal health company, who was coming to teach the students about proper vaccinating as part of the workshop. She also credited the Laughing Loon Restaurant and Zirnhelt Ranch for supplying the livestock.

There were 15 spaces in the workshop and 12 were taken up by the students enrolled in the program and three additional people came to take it, including two from Abbotsford, Watt added.

Here Pate works with the students on the first day of the workshop.


TRU Applied Sustainable Ranching program international student Majeed Nashira from Ghana, West Africa learns horsemanship skills.

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