TAG Teaching

My very wonderful sister in law said today that I will try to clicker train anything that breaths. She may be right. But when something works why fight it? I’ve trained the horses, our dog, a cow. I could work with the cat or the goats but there’s only so much time in a day.
Instead I’ve been concentrating on children. I don’t know that we’re allowed to clicker train children. It might not be PC. Instead I’ve been doing some TAG teaching and positive reinforcement.
I volunteered for an after school program my daughter is in. It must have been a moment of insanity and I soon realized just how much I didn’t want to do it. It’s right after school and the children, especially the boys, needed to be out using up all that energy that had been contained throughout the day. They cold not sit still, instead rough housing and bouncing about the room. Not that I blame them but it did make life difficult. After a few weeks of yelling and ordering around I decided there must be a better way.
Enter the clicker. And a bag of candy.
I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to go about it at first, whether I would click them individually or as a group. We rotate through four groups each person taking a different group each week. This would allow me to test the training on all the different children and not mean that it had only worked because of the certain children it was applied to. Also that I had to train different ones every week.
I sat down with the first group, the first time, and asked if they remembered when I brought my horse to the talent show last year. Rather gratifyingly, most of them did. This is a rural school, most if the kids have horses of their own. Seeing a horse isn’t a big deal to them. Our tricks had excited them though, some remembered that he could bow, others that he danced. I then told them that I was going to train them the same way I trained him, by telling them what good jobs they were doing. Then I loaded the clicker. One click, one little piece of candy each, a few times over. Soon every time I clicked all their little hands were stuck out waiting.
I clicked them for sitting down, for listening, then as they got the idea every time one asked if they could help, invited another child to join their group, was polite, or helpful. The whole group got a candy so I tried to be sure no one was doing anything particularly rotten. All those little hands would stick out, then they always asked why? I explained that someone had helped or been nice.
I got a few, Wait, all I have to do is say thank you to get candy?! Soon everyone of them was offering help, inviting another child to work with them, apologizing exuberantly if they bumped into each other.
It worked the same through every group. Even the most difficult were tolerable with a few clicks. The adults stood around after the last class telling horror stories of their evening. One fight. Three children in one group banging around the room, climbing over and under desks. Nobody paying attention. I sat quietly and listened. Mine had been wonderful.
This week the lady in charge brought a few bags of candy of her own.

At church we are getting a handful of small children ready for the Christmas program. Ages three up to early teens. The smallest have to walk up the aisle and say a few words into the microphone. They started out shy and quiet. We added a small reward after each repetition of their lines. First with a click, this is all experimental, then without. It worked much better without. Instead of a click and every child getting a candy every time, the one who finished their lines quietly gets a candy reward.
They march enthusiastically up the aisle and shout into the microphone. This may be working too well πŸ˜‰
The older kids get their reward too. After their patience in waiting for the littles to finish and reading their lines we make the trip down the line giving each one a candy.

Then my children started doing this the other night. He was playing the dog and she his owner. She was doing quite the job training him too.
This may be getting out of hand.


Preparing

Coyotes eye is getting worse quite steadily. It is going to have to come out soon. There are some benefits to the slow progression of his cancer. He is becoming accustomed to not being able to see out that side bit by bit instead of all at once. The tumor covers more than half of it now and is starting to make the eye difficult to close.
I don’t know what the surgery and care afterwards will entail but we are doing all that we can to prepare in advance. Instead of waiting until he needs medicine put on it then trying to convince him to accept it, I am getting him used to assuming position and letting me mess with the eye lid. Hopefully this will make it easier for the vets to look at it and for me to doctor after the eye is removed.
It’s a hard thing to know is coming. As long as we can still have Coyote, what is one eye anyway? He will be just the same wonderful horse with only one eye that he is with two. Now I just need to get the vet called, and to keep telling myself that.


Learning To Train Through Learning

I stopped in town today to drop something off. There on the front step, a native man stood, talking, waiting while the women folk did their shopping. He was very friendly and said hi as I walked past. On my way out we struck up a conversation. He introduced himself. His name was wonderful and in the native tongue, Tatanka something that meant two. Of course I can’t remember it, I can barely remember my own children’s names. I told him that of course I knew what Tatanka meant! I’ve seen Dances With Wolves.
He said he would tell me how to say anything I wanted to know. I want to know all of it! How often do we get a chance like that? My mind doesn’t absorb knowledge as quickly as my thirst for it would desire. I froze, I couldn’t think of anything to ask. Finally I said hi. I want to know how to say hello. He told me. He told me quickly and fluently.
I tried. I stumbled through repeating it, poorly and with terrible pronunciation I’m sure. He knew what he was doing though and kept going. More words. Paragraphs of things I was unable to grasp. No way my mind, already lagging behind, could remember.
As I drove home repeating the one phrase I could almost grasp over and over to myself, trying desperately to force the knowledge into my brain, it occurred to me that we often do the same thing with our horses. We know what it is we are trying to teach. We know what the outcome should look like. In our excitement and enthusiasm we keep pushing more and more of our knowledge to our horses.
Our horses are usually willing, they do try so hard to get along. They do their best to grasp all the things we keep throwing at them. Perhaps if we slowed down a little. If we worked on one thing at a time. Gave them a chance to catch up, to learn that one thing before we moved on to the next. Perhaps we would speed up the training by slowing it down a little.

The phrase I was trying so hard to grasp? It was along these lines. Not quite this, instead it was we will meet again, I think, but this was the closest I could find.: Ah kay wan chee keyn ktay = It was good to see you again!


First Training Session With Poppy

We are working on treat manners and targeting. Cows present completely different problems when it comes to treat manners than horses. With horses we mostly worry about biting. Also staying out of our space and not smashing us, but differently than we have to worry about cows. Not that I am exactly sure what it is I am going to have to worry about with a cow and clicker training. I do know the usual problems and ways to get hurt with cows though.
Cows can bite but they don’t have teeth on the top, only bottom in front. Biting pinches but doesn’t usually break the skin or hurt quite as bad as a horse. I’ve been bit by far more cows than horses actually πŸ˜‰
What cows do that can get youhurt much worse is head butt. It’s how they fight each other and how they defend their calves from coyotes. In the video here she is doing some resource guarding. Baa, our goat, has gotten too close and is making her nervous. She is starting to rub her head on me and push a little. I am more active in dissuading that behavior with my elbow, a touch of positive punishment, than I would be with a horse. That little bit is fairly dangerous. A cow that isn’t scared of you at all is far more dangerous than one that just keeps her distance. They will be more likely come up and eat you during calving if you have to mess with their calves and without fear, or well taught manners are just more likely to run you over. Good manners are very important.
Horses will at least try not to step on things under their feet. Cows just walk all over anything on the ground.If they knock you down you can get good and smashed.
To avoid all of that we are being very careful about manners. This is our first go and she’s starting to get the idea. We had to move out of the way to let a bull go past. He asked us to move very politely. All the cattle are just finishing up their breakfast, ground hay with corn mixed in. There are round bales waiting for them. They have free choice hay available at all times.Β  Poppy is completely free to go any time she chooses. This will be a fun and interesting learning experience for me no matter what she ends up learning. Completely +R, except for the little bits of +P I add to keep myself safe.Β  She doesn’t have a halter or want to be touched so there will be no pressure based training involved. I can’t wait to see where we go with it!

Cognitive Dissonance? Or Functional Fixedness?

In clicker training we often hear that people don’t want to switch over from whatever their normal training method is because of cognitive dissonance, “ the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values”. The theory is that by believing that you can train horses more kindly by rewarding them makes people uncomfortable because then they see how cruel they’ve been to horses, all animals, up to that point making it hard for them to accept positive reinforcement because it forces them to accept that they were unkind. This is obviously true for the people who believe that. But is it the sole reason and true for everyone? I tend to disagree.

I was reading a great article in the December/January Readers Digest. Most people come with quotes from deep scientific papers, I read Reader Digest. I am not deep and scientific. This is taken from a slightly more lofty source though, Elastic: Flexible Thinking In A Time Of Change, by Leonard Mlodinow. He states that once on a path people tend to follow it, no matter what. We get stuck in our ways, stuck in our thinking and are unable to change, unable to even recognize that it is possible for things to be different.

I know I see it in myself regularly. I fight and fight with something no matter how hard it is to accomplish. I don’t see that I could do it different, even though often there are ways of doing it much more easily that I should be aware of, it just doesn’t sink in because I’m so busy fighting my way down the path I have chosen.

It’s not because we are bad people. It’s not because we know, subconsciously, that it will make us feel bad if we do things in a kinder way. It’s that we are already doing it, in the way we are used to, surely there is no other way.

Most people are already doing things in a very kind and understanding way with their horses, or any animals. Are there things that could be improved? Yes. All of us have things that could be improved. Few people are going to start clicker training and suddenly become distraught over how cruel they’ve been their whole lives. There may be some why didn’t I do this sooner?! This thing and that would have been so much easier if only I had discovered this easier, funner, way sooner! The same as I feel nearly daily about many things in life.

In order to overcome our fixed ways of thinking he offered a few suggestions.

Change your environment, from small changes like reorganizing, to larger ones like reorganizing your entire life.

Pretend you are encountering situations for the first time no matter how often you’ve encountered them. Think about and examine deeply the normal ordinary things you encounter regularly in life.

Surround yourself with people who don’t necessarily agree with you. People who have different view points and ideas. I guess I’ll have to keep following some of those groups that drive me crazy πŸ˜‰

And, this one should be easy for us positive reinforcement people, think positively! When we get all negative we shut down, stop thinking. When we are positive in our thoughts and actions we explore and broaden our horizons, open ourselves to new thoughts and ideas.

I think that instead of being all negative about the reasons people aren’t interested in trying positive reinforcement, criticizing and critiquing, we need to stay open, listen to them, talk, share, and be nice. Remember that we need to be as open to the possibilities that there are other ways of doing things as we would like them to be.

And to go with that, a video of Harvey nicely walking into a trailer πŸ™‚

 

 


Hay Grinding

Yesterday I put up the video of Harvey and Rusty grazing quietly next to the massive, noisy, horse eating hay grinder. That video was the ending. It doesn’t begin to cover the rest of the story.
As Paul Harvey would say. I miss him. His name was Harvey, just like Harvey! Just realized that. But anyway.
We brought cows home just before Thanksgiving. Just in time too. It’s been cold and snowy ever since. We wouldn’t be able to get a semi load of cows in now on the slick muddy roads.
Until Thanksgiving break ended my husband went out and did the feeding. I took over Monday when he went back to work. We, I mostly since he does not like cows!, have a very tiny herd of our own. I had seen all of them but one. I looked really hard. No sign of her. Then I couldn’t find her calf either. One cow missing out of a tiny herd hurts. Financially and mentally. She’s a really good cow, young, sweet, and always raises a nice calf. I was starting to get a little worked up.
After feeding I saddled Rusty and put a halter on Harvey to bring him along. Horses don’t only learn by riding. We rode through the slop, mud and poop, and the rain/snow, searching for that one cow. Finally, chasing a tight circle of them off a hay bale her head with the pale green ear tag proclaiming her to be number 313 popped up. I was thrilled to see her.
We went up and rode through the calves searching for her calf. The calves ran around us, back and forth, up and down, as calves do. It was a lot for both horses to take in. We didn’t find the calf. I did remember seeing one of our calves with his mama when we brought them home missing an ear tag. I will assume it was him.
By then they were well underway grinding hay. We rode out into the yard. We made big loose circles around them. Letting the horses look, listen, and settle down.We rode down wind of them and let the horses sniff in wonder and try bites of this weird hay covered snow that was underfoot. They took it all pretty well until we rode down between the hay bales and the grinder.
Harvey wants to shoot past us anyway and we were going towards home. He and Rusty kept goosing and wanting to run forwards. We made laps, stopping to graze at each end. Make it past the scary thing, get a treat. Back and forth, back and forth. Lots of grazing mixed in. Until Rusty could go on a loose rein and Harvey wasn’t trying to pass up any more than usual.
At one point I looked up and the guy running the grinder gave me a big thumbs up. He has horses. Big fancy expensive horses. I used to show with him back in the day. Not against him, he was always in the open classes. I was amateur. But we’d be at the same shows and talk. I have to say that his expression of approval made me feel a little warm and fuzzy.
I had thought, briefly about wearing the GoPro for the whole thing. The rain made that out of the question. Taking pictures was a dangerous undertaking, in the wet sitting on one hot horse while the other bounced around us. I managed to get a couple of pictures without dropping my phone though!

 


Group Workings

I have been out to play with the horses little bits here and there. With Thanksgiving and everyone home there hasn’t been much time.
I had a few minutes with only one small child underfoot so I snuck out to worm them. Deworm to be exact for the nit picky out there. Amarillo took\k one look and knew something was up. He left.
That left Coyote as the next trouble causer to be gotten done and out of the way before he realized and left too.He usually takes it well, and was, until Rusty went after Harvey and startled me. I looked to be sure I wasn’t going to get smashed. And stopped right in the middle of squirting the nasty stuff into Coyotes mouth.
I spent the extra dollar to get apple flavored wormer. Apparently that didn’t somehow make it yummy. Coyote wanted nothing to do with me after that and it took a little longer to get the job done. As soon as I let him go he turned to Harvey who was of course immediately underfoot again and I swear he wiped his mouth off on Harvey’s back.
Rusty stood wonderfully and Harvey will suck anything that get too near into his mouth. He gobbled it right up before realizing, or maybe never realizing, it was anything other than a treat.
Then we get to the video.
During the last snow we had lots of time to work on group treat manners. Harvey is still an issue. Way too enthusiastic. Not bad, just in my space. Amarillo was getting curious but it still took him a bit to join the fun.
With Coyote we are working on putting his head on my shoulder and letting me mess with his eye. It will be coming out soon. The cancer is growing quickly. Starting to make it hard to close the eye and being generally uncomfortable. I need to call and get the appointment made. I want to be sure he has the ability to care for it well installed before it is done.
Amarillo finally decided to come into the group. It took a bit to get him caught and haltered. I only left in the last little bit, I really thought this whole video would be two or three minutes long. It was over six in the end and I had to cut something. He took his wormer so very well in the end I’m not sure what all the upset was about.
Then I was out of apples and had to fall back on my special secret supply of peppermints. That Amarillo didn’t like. Oh well, he should have let me catch him earlier.

 


First Snow

It’s not a bad snow. Not really. There are times I can’t see the barn from the house. When we can barely see the vehicles parked there. Today was a wet snow. I spent lots of time worrying about the two horses who’s last winter was spent down south. What if they’re cold? What if their coats don’t get thick enough? What if they’re shivering?

I went out and checked a few times bringing gifts of cake with me. They were chilly, feeling all hot and silly like they get. No one was shivering and the snow wasn’t melting off their backs. I left them. They have all the hay they can eat and the run in to keep them warm.

Tonight the snow had slowed down but it was a dryer colder sort of snow. I went to bring them in. Not because of the snow its self so much. Instead because they were soaked from a day of wet barely freezing snow. Give them a chance to dry off and warm up for a few hours then they can go back out. Coyote likes to be in the barn during storms. Onna wouldn’t hardly go in the door without being forced. Rusty doesn’t care but likes food. I didn’t know what the two new ones would think.

I opened up the barn then went outside and called into the wind and snow. In my mind I was the father from My Friend Flicka, this story might have been from Thunderhead though. When we were kids our mom read to us from my grandma’s college lit book all the time. In it was the exert where he calls Banner and the herd in out of a blizzard. It’s beautifully written. The dad lift his face into the full brunt of the wind and calls. Miles away watching his herd out on pasture in the mountains, Banner climbs to a high peak listening and smelling, gauging the severity of the storm. He “hears” the call, or decides it’s bad enough, and pushes his mares and foals away from the shelter they have found and down to the ranch head quarters. Goblin/Thunderhead falls in a hidden draw filled with snow and Banner Jumps down and lifts him by the scruff of his neck, gives him a good shake, and gets him going again. One mare has stepped in a hole and broke her leg. She stands waiting to be eaten by wolves? coyotes? foal trembling by her side while the other horses gallop past. Once the herd is inside the warm barn eating hay and grain, a foal shows up, claw marks down his side, no damn in sight. I don’t remember if it was that same foal or a different one. The horses had come in out of the storm.

My horses came too. Galloping and bucking. They may have only been on the other side of the corral, not off in the mountains, but they answered just the same. Coyote and Rusty nearly trampled me getting through the narrow door. I locked them in the far stall together. It is set up for working cattle, not a horse barn. It works though. There are two big boxes instead of stalls. I turned from latching the gate and Harvey was already in. Amarillo had to stop and think for a moment then he joined us.

The wet steaming horses and I stood a long while. I had brought cake and they were happy to eat it. I had spent the day working on treat manners as a group. They all got clicked and treated as soon as nobody was trying to smash me. Tonight I had to really back Rusty off once as he went after Harvey teeth bared. Rusty was hurt and horrified. He gasped and turned to walk away. I clicked when he was off a ways. He learned immediately and stood nicely back the rest of the time I played with them.

I will check on them before bed. If the snow has stopped and they are dry I will let them out for the night. If it’s still wet and icky out I’ll bring them some hay and leave them for the night.

 


The Cowboy Way

I was talking to my friends husband after church last week. He is a cowboy through and through, and a good one. Some people like to trail ride, some like to go to shows, his hobby is roping at brandings. He loves to rope. I’ve never seen him rope, but I bet he’s good. He was telling about a lady from a prominent local family, she shows pretty big time. She was at a branding getting the fall calves done. This is generally the wrong time of year for branding, most people calve in the spring so it’s usually a spring thing.

He was shaking his head in disgust as he told how she was getting after her poor horse, whipping and beating it. Finally another man there walked over to her and very publicly told her to knock it off. Hopefully that was a strong does of positive punishment there in the form of humiliation. These are not people who are going to be doing any clicker training, probably πŸ˜‰Β  That doesn’t somehow mean that they don’t care about their horses.

It got me thinking about ranching and working cattle in general. Cattle are not smart and you can not train each one individually when you’re working with herds that number in the hundreds. Everything is easier to work when trained though. So how do you quickly and efficiently train hundreds of nearly wild animals? With food!

Farmers and ranchers have been using positive reinforcement to train their herds long before it became a thing. It’s so obvious and works so well it is amazing that it hasn’t caught on long ago for all training purposes. This same man also mentioned that the reason they had been late for church was because he had been out training a herd of yearling cattle. Yearlings are basically cow teenagers. Like any teenager they are… occasionally difficult. They want to do things their way. They’ll take off one way and if you ease them back the way you want they’ll charge off the completely opposite direction. These yearlings had just been turned out to graze the cornstalks, clean up ears of corn that fall off while combining. They’ll go out and feed some supplement to them. The cattle don’t automatically know to come in and eat. Again they are not smart animals and like anything aren’t born knowing these things, they need to learn.

With older cattle who know what’s going on you can park in the middle of the pasture and honk. The cattle will hear the horn and come running. For their food. Positive reinforcement on a very large scale. Teaching yearlings to do that is a little more difficult. He parked the feed truck and rode out around them pushing them to the food. They learn not only how to move and be worked by a horse, and get rewarded with food afterwards! But also to come to the sound of the horn.

Once cattle have learned this very handy cue it can be used for all sorts of things. When moving cattle from pasture to pasture it is very common to have a pickup in front honking and calling. In miserable weather I’ve moved cattle for miles this way. You stop once in awhile and wait for the slow ones to catch up. While waiting the pets and good followers get fed. If you wait too long between reinforcing you will start to loose them and they’ll look for other, easier, things to do. Like with any fed based training, high rate of reinforcement. If the lead are with you the followers want to be with the herd and will generally keep following. Once you get where you’re going everybody gets a nice jackpot.

In blizzards you can’t just tell cattle to stay in a sheltered place. They will drift, blowing along with the wind, until they get to a corner of the fence. Then they will stand and freeze. Once again, food is the perfect cure and training device. Sometimes calling them will be enough. If you are getting them bedded down good before the storm comes in or if it isn’t too bad. They will come running to the shelter.Β Other times you combine + and – reinforcement. Calling with the horn and pushing them with horses. Often you do have to resort to pure -R because it’s impossible to get out with a vehicle. Horses can get through almost no matter how bad the storm. Once to shelter lots of food will hold them there and get them settled down enough to stay. More bales as time passes will keep them even better and also help them stay warm.

When we start to feel all superior with our modern humane training methods I think we need to remember that there is nothing new under the sun. We may be doing it more, more refined, more purposefully, with more intent to be doing just that. That doesn’t mean that we are the first or the only. Next time you work with your horse remember that you are doing it the cowboy way πŸ˜‰
This video seemed fitting to go with my little rant. Coyote learned this trick years ago, before I had ever heard of any such thing as positive reinforcement. We were trying to move pairs, mama and baby calves, out of the small confines of the calving lot, where it is easier to keep an eye on them and help if any of the cows have trouble calving, to the pasture where they would have more room and green grass to graze on as spring arrived. You would think they would want to go. That after years of doing this the cows would have some idea what was going on and just pick up their calves and move. Back to the whole cows not being smart thing. The cow wanted to eat me, I could not get off and move the calf myself. Nothing I could do from the saddle could convince cow or calf to move. Coyote sighed and rolled his eyes, I swear he did and does it often, he is a master of contempt. Then he picked up his hoof, placed it on the calf who refused to stand and shook him gently. The calf jumped up and followed its mother. I scratched and petted and praised Coyote until I was sure he got the idea that I liked what he had done. Then we tried it again and finally were able to put it on cue. Then transfer the cue and basic movement to pushing calves along as well as getting them to stand up. He’s a very smart horse who knows his job well.

The calf in this video was born late in the summer, much younger than all the others. His mama ran off and left him as soon as we started moving them. Cows are not smart and don’t care a whole lot about their calved unless their bags start to get full and hurt, then they remember and start to look for them. Those couple of miles were a long walk for the little guy. He didn’t want to go that last little bit into the corrals. It probably would have been easier for the guys to grab him and move him themselves, but it sure was fun to get to see Coyote working instead of riding him while he did it for once.


Bringing The Last Of The Cows Home

We brought the last of the cows home today. Up shortly after six and horses saddled and in the trailer by seven thirty we got back in the house after dark. Four pickups and trailers, two semis, five horses and four 4wheelers. Tons of children and plenty of help. I don’t know how many pairs. Enough.
Tanna came and helped again today. We are always thrilled when she’s home on break and even more so when she spends that time with us! She rode Coyote, again. My daughter didn’t even get upset at having her horse taken. She stayed at the vehicles with Cowboy Bill instead of riding the 4wheeler with her father even,
Our son rode with his father. I don’t know if he had fun. Other than a glimpse of him standing in the middle of the pasture peeing I didn’t hardly see him. We went separate ways.
This is Rusty’s second time doing grown up work. The first time was less upsetting without any unknown horses around. Once they started calling his mind was blown. Luckily there was enough distance to cover that he lost some steam. Fortunately with so many people along no one person, namely us, was vital to the mission and I could spend some time working with him and playing with my phone.
They came out of the pasture easy enough and down the road. We were sent on ahead to help turn them into the corrals because, in theory, horses could get around them easier. In fact though we could not and out desperate attempt to pass the herd wasn’t even needed as Cowboy Bill and my daughter were having no difficulty at all helping them make the turn.
That done I kicked poor Tanna off Coyote and we put my daughter on. We headed out for a very nice ride. Until I got a call wanting to know where in the world we were?! We had to get home to sort the pairs they were getting loaded and hauling. Oops πŸ˜‰
Back home Tanna, husband, and I spent the day sorting. We made quick easy work of it and spent a fair bit of time waiting for trucks. The hauling and sorting was finished in time for a late lunch that we ate picnic style on the in laws lawn.
After lunch most of the many children went off to climb on the hay bales. Some of the adults started running the calves through the chute for vaccinations. Tanna and I got back on Coyote and Rusty to gather the cattle we brought home earlier from the pasture they’ve been enjoying. We had them in and sorted in no time.
My husband had been preparing the feed truck and when Tanna went home to spend some time with her family over her Thanksgiving break, weird, I went along to help fill the feed bunks for everybody. We got the cows taken care of and came back.
Just in time to see a calf standing around outside of the pens. He was obviously not supposed to be there even if we didn’t know where it was that he was supposed to be. I jumped off the 4wheeler and hurried down to open the gate to try to put him back in. He followed me. Hurrying turned into a mad dash. Both hoping he would follow and that he wouldn’t follow too quickly and I would be able to get to the gate before he caught up. At the gate I leapt up a few rungs before looking back again.
He had stopped. I flung the gate wide and my husband, waiting back on the 4wheeler pushed him through.
The ones working cows came out. They had seen him jump the guard rail fence flat footed with no one around. No one pressuring him. He was just done. He got reunited with his group and got his shot anyway.
The calves are all weaned now. They are across a fence from their mothers, they can see and touch and talk to the just not nurse. The moms are mostly fine with the whole thing. They will get a little more upset when their bags start get full. The calves are mostly weaned already though, nursing once or twice a day.