Proper Handling to Cut Livestock Stress

"Understanding cattle psychology and providing well-designed facilities will cut stress for producers and their cattle", said Temple Grandin, of Colorado State University. "Cattle have long memories", she said. Animals that have been handled roughly will be more stressed and difficult to handle in the future, whereas animals handled gently and with accustomed handling procedures will have very little stress when handled.

Because of their long memories, cattle remember painful restraint methods such as nose tongs. "Handling will become easier if you use a halter to hold the head and keep electric prod usage to an absolute minimum", Grandin said. If you use tail-twisting to move a cow up the chute, let go of the tail when she moves, to reward her. Breeding cattle will learn quickly to move when their tails are touched.

The basic principle is to prevent cattle from becoming excited. "They can become excited in just a few seconds, but it takes 20-30 minutes for the heart rate to return to normal in severely agitated cattle", said Grandin.

According to Grandin, the level of cattle stress depends on several things: the amount of contact with people, quality of handling, and genetics. Grandin recommended culling the few individuals with a bad temperament that may never settle down.

Editor’s Note: This information was taken from an article in Feedstuffs, March 13, 1995.