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6 cattle-handling problems and how to fix them

Aleeya Laureola for Progressive Cattle Published on 20 May 2020

There are problems lurking in every cattle-handling system that can create a headache on your operation – or totally ruin your system. Luckily, there are some simple fixes that can solve any problems you might find in your cattle-handling system. Whether you are investing in a new system or trying to improve your current one, spend a little time making sure it works for you by avoiding or fixing these common pitfalls.

1. The problem: Too many cattle all at once

Overcrowding never leads to happy endings. Cattle-handling systems magnify this issue. Too many cattle can strain the system, create tension among animals and are a safety hazard for humans and livestock. 

The fix:

Do not move an animal into the system until there is somewhere for it to go. Consider adding extra space to your system. If cattle can go past where you need them, it will make handling and processing easier. Look at different sizes of tubs. Dr. Temple Grandin recommends a tub with a 12-foot radius, and that works for most operations.

2. The problem: Dead ends

A dead end can happen in the area leading up to your cattle handling system, or within the system itself. They usually occur accidentally when handlers alter a system.

The fix:

Most cattle-handling systems are flexible for several different procedures and sizes of cattle. Carefully review your system and look at every way an animal could go through. Where are possible dead ends, and how can they be avoided? Consider looking at cornerless handling systems to keep continuous flow.

3. The problem: Bad first experience

We have all watched at least one bad cattle experience in a system, and we know that is one too many.

The fix:

We have three fixes for you: acclimatize, acclimatize and acclimatize. It works. Cattle memories are specific, and a traumatizing handling experience is one they can remember until adulthood. Acquiring new cattle and making any changes to the system will require re-acclimatization.

4. The problem: Your system is working against cattle’s natural instincts

Think of catwalks. When installed in a cattle handling system, they work against cattle behavior and handling guidelines, since the handlers are now above the cattle, as a predator would be.

The fix:

Look for a design that works with cattle, keeps handlers safe and has cattle’s and handlers’ feet on the ground. Some cattle tubs have low sheet height so you can use point of balance from tub to alley. No need for catwalks. Your system should also be set up to work cattle in a triangle using their flight zone.

5. The problem: Shadows and dark corners

Cattle move toward light, and if your system lacks light, they will be reluctant to move.

The fix: Natural or artificial light

Natural daylight is the best way to address lighting issues in a cattle-handling facility. Some adjustable alleys and cattle tubs with 3E (easy entry and exit) technology are designed to use light to draw cattle in the right direction. If natural light is not an option, make sure light fixtures are installed.

6. The problem: Hot shots

The quickest way to undo all of the work you have done acclimating your cattle to your cattle-handling system is to pull out a hot shot.

The fix:

With the right system and proper training, electric prods are not needed in your cattle-handling system. Working in the animal’s flight zone and with proper stockmanship skills will eliminate the need for hot shots. Training and refresher courses for employees are vital to cattle safety and stress reduction. Set a schedule and stick to it.

We all make mistakes and there is no such thing as perfect. However, the best cattle handlers learn from the mistakes of others. Identifying and fixing these problems will create a low-stress and efficient cattle-handling system on your operation.  end mark

Aleeya Laureola is the content manager and cattle handling research specialist at Arrowquip. Email Aleeya Laureola.

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.