Creating A Flerd on the Circle Ranch

“Cowboy Bob” Kinford is working with us to combine all of our domestic longhorn, alpaca, llamas, horses and burros into a mixed flock/herd “flerd” as is done elsewhere around the world.  These animals will then be run as a group according to a grazing plan.

Bob, a master of low-stress livestock handling,  has strong ideas concerning how to do this, and  whether feed helps or hurts the effort.  He is a horseback purist, to put it mildly.


His comments and videos appear below.


“The Circle Ranch has asked me to develop a multi species herd (called a flerd) out of some of the animals on the ranch.The plan is to create a flerd by combining horses, longhorn cattle, lamas, alpacas…


…and BLM burros.

The burros have not been handled, so the hardest part will be getting them into the pens. Last Tuesday I managed to get them from the Middle Pasture into a trap next to headquarters. To accomplish this I opened the gate I wanted them to go through and rode to the back of the pasture. As soon as I spotted the burros I stopped and stood there until they started moving away from me, then dropped out of site. There was a stud horse and two geldings at the gate when the burros reached it. When the stud made a short charge at the burros, I was far enough out that I loped in the same direction as the burros and managed to stop them. After nearly an hour of applying and releasing pressure a single step at a time, the burros left and the horses followed them through the gate. I continued acclimating them to seeing a person horseback for a couple of hours. When I decided they had enough for the day, I released them to walk down a fence. Unfortunately, when they reached the county road (and a cattle guard) the stud horse made another run at them, chasing them across the cattle guard, and following them into the next trap. I waited until things calmed down and removed the stud horse and his compadres to another pasture where they will be out of the way.


In the meantime, the rest of the flerd is beginning to shape up. There are peculiar challenges with this project, mainly with the alpacas and lamas. The males of these two species fight for dominance on a daily basis, which makes it difficult to combine groups of these species with each other, let alone other species. Interestingly enough, it seems that the neutered alpacas and lamas will still fight for dominance. To get around this I have removed the most aggressive males. They still fight, but the fights are a lot shorter.

In order to keep the stress levels as low as possible, I work these animals around a pen, or through several pens. Then I place the animals on feed in a separate pen. I cannot stress stress enough on how much stress is created by calling animals to feed. When we create the “Pavlov’s Dog” response in animals the more aggressive animals are always on feed first leaving those lower in the pecking order to fight over what is left. Cattle which are grazing as a herd and acting as a herd will begin eating then scattering out after being fed because of the stress. However, by placing stock on feed this extra stress is removed. As you will see in the video below, the varied species in this flerd are beginning to eat with each other in only six days. This is largely because they are being placed on feed rather than going through the stress of the horses driving the cattle off feed and the cattle driving off the lamas and alpacas.

Video # 1 of the formation of the flerd:


Video # 2 of the formation of the flerd:


Stay tuned for more reports on this project.”

…Thanks, Bob Kinford

(NOTE: Content for this post was originally posted to:


Ranching, wildlife management, finance, oil & gas, real estate development and management.
      • …thanks for the response! I wasn’t asking in general (I agree), but asking for an update on this specific project and any lessons learned.

        Isn’t keeping them (or even better, them staying) together part of whether or not they work out? Have you been able to keep them together? if so, how?

        • Hello Ethan,

          What I meant is that animal impact is much more powerful with what the planned graziers call ‘herd effect’, the intense trampling, grazing etc. of compacted animals. This is almost impossible to achieve without herders.

          We use goats in this way with success. But we pay lots of money to do this.

          We use cows and try to concentrate them with electric fences. To the extent we succeed the results are great but whether in deserts or forest these fences are very problematical and especially around bears which break them and chase cattle through them.

          Through the years I have heard sanguine talk about herding and fencing; I won’t say that others can’t hold the herds by placement and temporary fencing but I will say that we have not learned how except with lots of dedicated labor.

          If you need to do this with cattle you need herders (cowboys) permanently assigned to daily placement and movement. This is costly and there are no mornings, afternoons – let alone whole days – “off”. Physiologically, it works but it will eats up whatever small profits cattle can produce and involves a lot of brain damage.

          Flerds work great when and if you can keep the animals bunched up all together. We think that doing this adds market value by making the ranch prettier and hunting better. That is different than paying for itself through increased cash flows.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *