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From the Ground Up: Low-Stress Livestock Handling

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 8:20 AM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Managing a cattle operation requires moving the animals from time to time whether it’s gathering them out of a pasture, running them through a working corral or through processing areas, or loading them into trailers to go to or from auction markets. That can result in a lot of stress on the animals but there are low-stress handling techniques that many ranchers use. Ron Gill is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension professor and livestock specialist.

“The way we handle cattle influences the stress level that cattle undergo. Most of the stress that a cow goes through in her life other than environmental stress from heat and humidity or cold or something like that is really under the control and management of people. And a lot of the stress that we document on cattle is based off their interactions with humans and it being somewhat an unpleasant experience.”

Gill teaches low-stress cattle handling techniques.

“If we understand cattle behavior better we can then interact with those cattle in a manner that creates less stress for them. If they understand what we’re asking them to do, they’re much more willing to do it and do it quicker than if we were trying to force them through a system.”

Communicating the message to the cattle is key.

“We have to set them up to be successful. They don’t really know what we’re wanting them to do until we actually train them or show them and so a lot of times if we get to forcing the issue they get to pushing back or overreacting to it because they don’t understand it and that’s no different than a lot of us.”

Pressure is a fundamental tool.

“We have to apply more pressure on an animal than what they perceive to be the pressure in front of them. And if they have an out and have the time to think about, process it, and react to it, it improves the flow. Once we start that, when one of them goes, the next one will follow and it just creates this draw and flow through a system.”

And less stress makes for happier cows.

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