Why Low-Stress Cattle Handling?

Have you ever had major anxiety before working cattle?  I am talking can’t sleep, stomach hurts, mind is racing kind of anxiety?  Well, I have.  Before learning about low-stress cattle handling, it was an ordeal to work cattle.  I usually worked cattle with my dad and husband and there were times where they dreaded it because of how bad things would get.  I dreaded it.  We didn’t fully understand working facility design and how cattle ticked (flight zone).

Then, a miracle happened.  I went off to college (Go Wolfpack!) and learned a ton in my beef cattle management class.  After I graduated, I went to work with NC Cooperative Extension.  I was first a 4-H Agent and then 2 years later became a Livestock Agent.  It was then in Extension that I had the opportunity to attend trainings and conferences that not only made me a better educator but a better cattle producer.  I took all of that knowledge I gained and started applying it back home.

The difference was unbelievable and pretty instant.  After making a few modifications to our cattle handling facility and the way we approached working cattle it started coming together.  It is all about the way the cattle move and flow into a working facility and then how you choose to work them.  We now move a little slower, a little quieter, and just focus on the task at hand.  We prepare the cattle and teach them how to come into the catch pen so that part is not a rodeo either.  We select for quiet, easy-going females that will not give us trouble as a brood cow.  Culling the “pot-stirrers” also helps everything run more smoothly.

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Solid catching pens are important in securing the cattle while they wait to be worked.

 

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Squeeze chutes are important in keeping the cattle calm and properly restrained so the producer can administer vaccinations/medications or perform other herd health practices.

So, why low-stress?  What is the big deal?  Who cares if you hoop, holler, and chase the cattle?  The cattle care.  The consumer cares.  We all should care.  Beef cattle producers are doing a better job handling cattle today than they ever have.  They want to create a low-stress handling environment so the cattle are more at ease and can return to their normal behavior as quickly as possible.  I feel like another way to create a low-stress environment for beef cattle is to implement rotational grazing.  They get familiar with people being around them more often and come when you call to move them.  That easily translates when it comes time to work cattle.

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Opening a gate to move cows to another pasture.

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Here they come!  I joke that our cattle are trained better than dogs.

The Bud Box is one facility design that has really revolutionized the way cattle can flow through a facility.  It works on their instinct to return back from where they came from and how the handler is positioned to the cattle.  Read more about the Bud Box facility design here.   Recently, I held a pasture workshop and one of the topics was on handling facilities with a Bud Box demonstration.  Check out the video here.

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Bud Box facility with an alley to a head gate (left) and an alley to load onto a trailer (right).

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Cattle in the Bud Box waiting for the handler to close the gate.  The handler will then walk a few steps towards the back of the Bud Box (panel closest to you in the photo) at the hip of the cattle and then the cattle will turn and look for an opening (which is where the handler is standing in the photo).  Check out the video to see the whole process.

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Cattle in the alley waiting to be worked after moving out of the Bud Box.

Today, when we finish working cattle, I usually look at dad and say, well, that was easy.

 

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