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Benefits of Low-Stress Livestock Handling

Experts say that stress can also have an impact on animals, such as livestock
Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 12:54 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Any doctor will tell you that reducing the amount of stress is your life is beneficial to your health, and it’s really not any different for animals that you’re responsible for taking care of, and that includes livestock. Ron Gill is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension professor and livestock specialist.

“Stress is a huge drain on energy. And so if they’re stressed they start creating hormone shifts. Cortisol levels go up. All that requires energy to manage that fear factor and adrenaline release and those kinds of things. So energy is pulled away from other systems.”

Gill says that the immune system in particular is a big user of energy.

“So if we stress cattle and the immune system is probably the biggest drain on energy reserves. So if we do anything from a stress standpoint and handling being part of that, we can weaken their immune system because they don’t have enough energy to draw. We see the same thing if we start increasing cortisol levels in the blood stream we can actually decrease the reproductive performance of cattle in an artificial insemination program.”

Gill adds that meat quality can also be affected.

“All these stressors release hormones, create lactic acid in the muscle and it will taste and have different texture if we handle them incorrectly. And plus it increases the risk of bruising and things like that in cattle that are going to market.”

Energy and protein are what creates growth in cattle.

“So if we have more energy going to growth rather than stress, the cattle perform more. So we’ll see an improvement in immune response, improvement in gain, improvement in carcass quality, improvement in reproductive performance, so it just makes sense if you’re in the business of growing cattle and growing them efficiently that you would try to reduce stress on them.”

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