The Geier Hitch is an outmoded and seldom-used tool or technique formerly used in livestock management. It is a low-tech means of controlling a bull during handling or transport by means of a rope affixed to its nose ring and around its scrotum. The Geier Hitch should not be confused with the cow hitch, although the cow hitch may be a useful component of the Geier Hitch.
The basic principle of the Geier Hitch is the attachment of a rope or stout cord through a nose ring installed through the septum or nostril of the nose of the animal, utilizing a bowline or double half hitch knot. (A cow hitch, being a variant of the double half hitch, would serve just as well). The other end of the rope or stout cord is drawn tautly against the belly of the beast and wound around the scrotum at the base of the testicles, where it is tied in a firm knot and exerts pressure and induces stress. Properly installed, the Geier Hitch will cause tension and pain if the animal gets out of control and begins running, bucking or throwing its head. The exact form of knot used at the scrotal end of the Geier Hitch depends upon the age and value of the subject animal. The slip knot may be used where damage from over-tightening is an acceptable risk; otherwise, a stable knot such as a granny knot or bowline knot should be used. The cow hitch would be of no use whatsoever at this end of the rope.
During the transportation of the subject animal utilizing the Geier Hitch, care should be taken to avoid frightening or startling the animal, as any grass-eating mammal has a strong flight reflex. Instances of castration or other grave injury to the reproductive organs, while rare, are known to have occurred to startled animals as a result of use of the Geier Hitch. Other less risky means of controlling the animal should be considered before implementing the Geier Hitch. The price of steers normally is well below the price of bulls put out to stud, and the inadvertent conversion of the bull to a steer is to be avoided in most circumstances. Since an uncontrolled, dangerous bull may cause serious injury or death to the farmer, however, the Geier Hitch may be the only safe alternative, on balance, if other appropriate equipment is unavailable.
Origins, ethics and current status
The first known use of the Geier Hitch in the United States was by Ed Geier and Fred Geier and witnessed by Ralph Geier in Boon Lake Township, Renville County and Lynn Township near Otter Lake, McLeod County, Minnesota near Hutchinson, Minnesota during the Great Depression. (See article on West Lynn Creamery, McLeod County History Book, pages 150-51 (1978)). The Geier Hitch has been challenged ethically as constituting animal abuse due to infliction of unnecessary pain on the animal. Conversely, the benefits of the Geier Hitch as a technique of animal husbandry which may reduce risks of death or life-threatening injury for the farmer are considered by its supporters to outweigh any animal cruelty associated with its use. With the demise of family farms and their small-scale dairy and beef operations, the increased prevalence of artificial insemination for heifer and cow breeding in modern dairy operations, and the disappearance of livestock generally in many parts of rural America, and due to the availability of other more humane means of animal control, the Geier Hitch is seldom utilized today.
- United States Department of Agriculture, Year Book 1922 (GPO 1923), at pp. 281-297 (concerning the Minnesota dairy industry generally), 320-338 (bull management, culling and castration)
- Handling and Housing Cattle, Agriculture Information Sheet No. 35 (HSE January 1999), published by Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Suffolk, UK, at pp. 3-4 [http://www.hsebooks.co.uk)
- C. Dalton, Noseringing a Bull, in Growing Today (http://www.lifestyleblock.co.nz/articles/cattle/20_noseringing_bull.htm)
- K. Ruble, Men To Remember: How 100,000 Neighbors Made History [the story of Land O' Lakes ] (Lakeside Press, 1947), at pp. 226-280 (future of the dairy industry), 295-98 (bull management and subsidization of artificial insemination by the dairy cooperatives)
- M. Cotter & B. Jackson, Growing Up on a Minnesota Farm (Arcadia Publishing Co., 2001), at pp. 35-41 (the flight reflex of grass-eating mammals), 112-16 (bull calf management)
- The Jamesway Company, The Jamesway Book (1930), pp. 30-44 (dangers of on-farm bull handling; technology of bull pens, nose rings and bull staffs)
- McLeod County Historical Society, McLeod County (Minnesota) History Book 1978 (Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, Texas 1979), pp. 150-151 (origins of the Geier Hitch)
- W. Ebeling, The Fruited Plain: The Story of American Agriculture (U.Cal.Press 1979), at pp. 30-34 (demise of the family farm), 200-202 (beef cattle in the Upper Midwest)
- R. Dantzer, P.Mormede: Stress in farm animals: A need for reevaluation. J Anim Sci 57:6-8, 1983.
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