Basic Cattle Handling Practices To Help Reduce Stress

G. M. Gregory

Working cattle is one of the most stressful times for you and your cattle. Some of the stress can be eliminated by using a few common sense practices. By reducing the amount of stress the animals go through you will have better results.

When working cattle the most important thing to have is a good working facility. If your facility is not adequate to handle the cattle it can be a very stressful time for you and them. It should be strong enough to keep the worst cow you own in the corral. If one gets out, they'll all think about it. If they get loose once, they'll know they can and will be looking for a way out each time they go through the process. Many people have been hurt trying to restrain and manage their cattle, so a sturdy corral system is essential to reduce stress on both you and the cattle.

Placement of the corral is also critical. It should be located such that the fence line funnels into the corral. The cattle should then go straight into the gate. If possible, you should provide feed and water in or near your corral, or have them pass through the pens on the way to fresh grass. This will allow the animals to become accustomed to the corral without being worked every time they go to the pens. If the only time they go to the corral is to be worked, the cattle will begin to associate the corral with pain and they won't work smoothly through the system.

The next thing you should do is spend some time with your cattle. If you will simply go out and sit with the cattle, they will become accustomed to your presence and not be afraid. This makes it easier to check the cattle for possible problems. If you have cows that are wild and don't get used to you, you should sell them.

When it comes time to work your cattle, the easier you move around them the easier they will be to handle. If the cattle are accustomed to being fed at the corral, you can easily bring them in with a little feed, again, reducing stress on the cattle. If they are not accustomed to being fed then you should put hay in the back of the pen and then get behind them, slowly and calmly walking them up to the corral.

Cattle tend to be more nervous when strangers are around. Your cattle will move through the process more effeceinctly if extra people are not around during this time. Try to keep your work force to a minimum, and preferably use people who spend time around young cattle, such as friends and family. You should never use a hot shot in working your cattle. The shock causes a great deal of stress and should be avoided.

These simple cattle processing rules will result in less stress for both you and your cattle.

Animal Husbandry Newsletter August 1996
Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University
Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
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