Temple Grandin was a featured speaker at the American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation's Animal Care and Handling Conference on Oct. 19, in Kansas City, MO. Speaking to meat industry professionals, retailers, inspectors, graders and ranchers, Grandin’s presentation was entitled, “ABCs of Cattle,” and she discussed ways to incorporate humane and economically viable handling practices in the beef industry.
“When I first got started, I thought I could fix everything with equipment. Well, that’s only half the equation; management is the other half,” said Grandin in her opening statement. Grandin has worked extensively setting up auditing systems for beef and pork plants. “Do you have a facility issue or an employee issue? You manage what you measure, and to maintain high standards in animal handling, it requires continuous measurement,” she says.
Her advice can be applied to packing plants, feedlot facilities and cow-calf operations. She tells producers not to feel like they have to make big investments in new facilities to be better animal handlers.
“You don’t have to invest a lot in new equipment or facilities; you would be amazed at what I can do with duct tape, portable lights, zip cords and cardboard,” says Grandin. “A good facility means proper lighting, ventilation, non-slip floors and solid sides. Sometimes, very simple changes can make all the difference. Distractions can cause balking, and slick floors cause agitation in the animals; this is especially huge in unloading ramps. The most common distractions in animal-handling facilities are reflections on water or metal, air blowing toward approaching cattle, moving people and equipment, a dark chute entrance, or shadows and high contrast lighting.”
Grandin believes in transparency in the feedlot and packing business, and she often places videos on YouTube, where she shows proper animal-handling practices commonly used in the industry. She offered trouble-shooting advice for beef producers to solve potential issues with simple fixes. Simply stated, calm cattle are easier to handle. Grandin explained that when cattle become fearful or excited, they are much harder to work with.
“If you can see the whites of their eyes, cattle are typically scared. We want to see cattle with soft, brown eyes as they work through our facilities. That means they are calm. Causes of increased stress may be overuse of the electric prod, missed stuns, excessive pressure from restraining devices, sharp edges on restrainer devices, being isolated from the group or slipping,” she adds.
Grandin’s best advice for improving employee handling methods: “Really good cattle handling means more walking for the employee. Respect the flight zone and blind spots on cattle. Use 'pressure and release' to get them to go where needed. Move cattle in small bunches and don’t overcrowd the receiving pen.”
Grandin was well received at the AMI Conference, and her work in animal handling is highly acclaimed throughout the world. For additional information on her work, check out www.grandin.com.
For additional reading, you may also enjoy, "Ag Industry Needs To Open Up, Says Temple Grandin."