Low-Stress Cattle Handling: The Importance of the Right Setup

A low-stress environment for cattle starts with the right setup for loading/unloading, sorting and handling. There are several things producers can do to improve animal-handling practices in each of these key areas. 

If performed correctly, loading and unloading cattle can be a low-stress process. There are several practices – such as facilitating movement for the cattle – involved in ensuring cattle are handled properly during these processes. By showing cattle where to go (towards the desired destination), producers can build trust with the cattle. Producers can do this by facilitating single file motion and drawing the animal’s eye to the desired destination. 

When producers use best practices for loading/unloading it alleviates unnecessary stress on the animals and allows producers to move cattle more efficiently. To learn more about low-stress methods for loading and unloading cattle, watch the Loading Finished Cattle video segment from CreatingConnections. 

Many issues in the sorting process start with a corral design that doesn’t allow cattle to follow a natural flow. Careful consideration should be given to pen design and maintenance of a fencing system. 

The “Bud Box” is a low-stress, open fencing system that allows an animal to take advantage of its peripheral vision and better view its surroundings. In the Bud Box video segment from CreatingConnections, Tom Noffsinger, D.V.M., explains how this simple design can be utilized by producers. “This rectangular structure can be easily built on any operation,” says Dr. Noffsinger. “The open fencing is soothing to cattle moving through the structure and allows the animal to see you.” Follow this link to learn more about the Bud Box setup. 

Best practices should be established to minimize stress on the animal and the handler anytime cattle are worked. A squeeze chute can greatly contribute to low-stress handling. Selection of a squeeze chute should be influenced by several factors, including the budget, the number of cattle at the operation, type of cattle and available man power. Speak with other producers and find out what worked and didn’t work for their setup. 

Sorting, corralling and containing should be limited and handled with proper stress-reducing plans to create a calm and safe environment. While perfecting the setup at an operation takes time and money, the savings and reduction of animal (and human) stress are well worth the effort. As with any new routine at your operation, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian before making changes to your current protocols.