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Low-Stress Handling Techniques For Producers

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to listen to Melissa Arhart speak on low-stress cattle handling techniques for producers. Arhart gave her presentation at the 2010 South Dakota State Fair, and she offered some great advice learned from well-known cattle handlers Bud Williams and Tom Noffsinger. Melissa Arhart, along with her husband, have used low-stress cattle handling techniques for years at their cattle feeding operation near Alpena, SD and say it has helped in many ways. The methods discussed require no hollering, arm waving, paddles or hot shots. A horse and a four-wheeler are optional, as well. All a cattle producer needs is the patience to work the cattle, using a pressure and release method, a low-stress, low-labor method to moving and sorting cattle that makes the job truly enjoyable.

Here are a few key points I took away from the presentation:

- “Stockmanship is the art or skill of working with livestock and the level of skill used,” explained Arhart. “What I learned from both Williams and Noffsinger is that little changes in our techniques can make a huge difference when working cattle.”

- Arhart said that most presenters tell producers that the problem often lies in the cow herd’s disposition or the quality of the facilities; however, most folks never consider that the problem might be the way the people are working around the cattle. I think she has a point, and it sure takes a lot less money to change our behaviors vs. building new facilities and buying new cattle!

- “The basic step of learning low-stress handling is applying pressure and release,” said Arhart, as she showed a variety of clips to demonstrate her points. “Cattle are always reading our intent and looking for opportunities. We can use their instincts to our advantage in order to get them to cooperate with us.”

- “We have always been taught to be behind cattle when moving them, but we can’t be afraid to be on the side and walking against them,” she said. “You really don’t have to worry about the back ones because their natural instinct is to follow the leader.”

- “There is a great deal of pride in having these stockmanship skills,” said Arhart. “Because of these techniques, it’s now really enjoyable to work calves.”

For more information on low-stress cattle handling, Melissa Arhart is now available for consultation. Contact her at [email protected] This topic has been widely covered by the folks at BEEF magazine. Check out previous articles on this topic here.