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Low-stress cattle handling strategies

Several easy strategies to promote safe, low-stress handling of livestock

Several easy strategies to promote safe, low-stress handling of livestock include:

  1. Take your time. After moving cattle into corrals where they’ll be worked, let them settle for 30 to 60 minutes before moving them through the chute. Cattle specialists say low stress handling starts by preventing cattle from becoming agitated in the first place.
  2. Don’t crowd the crowd pen. A major handling problem is jamming too many calves into the crowd pen before they go into the chute. Instead, if the crowd pen holds 12, you should only put 6 calves in there. Another tip when working the crowd pen: Don’t push the crowd gate up on the livestock, let them move forward naturally.
  3. Eliminate loud noises. Minimize noise by removing or tying up chains, back stop gates and other objects that may clang along the chute and scare livestock. Also eliminate loud noises from people working around livestock. Research has shown yelling and screaming makes an animal’s heart rate go up more than chains and gates slamming. Rapid movements can also stir livestock up, so it’s important to work quietly and slowly around them.
  4. Keep livestock together. If possible, avoid isolating individual animals. Lone animals get stirred up because most livestock do not like being alone, handling experts say.
  5. When transporting animals in a trailer or semi, avoid overcrowding which increases the potential for bruising. Also start, stop and go around corners slowly.

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