Common Cattle Handling Mistakes
Even experienced ranchers can fall victim to some common cattle handling mistakes. Often, when we’re set in our methods, we fail to see the everyday ways in which we are affecting our profits and the health of our stocks. Because of this, there are a few common, and easily corrected, errors many ranchers tend to make.
One of the most common cattle handling mistakes is overcrowding chutes and pens. Pens should never be filled more than halfway. Cattle will be reluctant to enter a squeeze chute if they are held too long in a pen beforehand. Cattle are also programmed to follow others in the herd — keeping them moving is the most efficient way to process them.
Keeping Cattle in the Dark
Cattle have low visual acuity and poor depth perception, but they are highly sensitive to light and dark. Trying to force an animal into a dark building is a common cattle handling mistake. Instead, let the daylight into your facilities by installing skylights and using electric lighting to eliminate shadows.
Chasing or Circling Cattle
Cows are sensitive to how you approach them. Don’t circle around cattle or crowd them in an effort to move them through a chute. Instead, approach them perpendicular to the direction of movement. Loud noises and whistles should be avoided as well.
Using Prods as Anything Other Than a Last Resort
Electric prods can be useful discipline tools but only when employed sparingly. Instead of resorting to a prod, use streamers and sticks to lure a cow into a pen. Prodding should be considered only when all other methods fail. Most importantly, never prod a cow when it has no place to go.
Failing to Provide Proper Training for Your Staff
Personnel problems are one of the most common issues in cattle handling today. Make sure anyone who handles cattle in your operation understands what they’re doing and why. They should also be well-versed in how to properly use the tools they are given. Your staff should have the resources available to do their jobs safely and humanely. One way to avoid incidents is to begin logging and tracking handling errors, such as falls and run-ins with fences.
It’s easy to underestimate the effect stress has on a cow’s well-being. Minimizing distractions, giving cattle appropriate space during handling, and understanding and anticipating their reaction to various stimuli can go a long way towards improving temperament and preventing illness and injury.
For more information, you can also contact the Arrowquip office directly. Our squeeze chutes and cattle crowding tubs have been specifically designed to deliver the most humane and stress-free handling experience possible.