Skip to main content
Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Apply to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Give to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Apply to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Give to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Low Stress Animal Handling: Why we do what we do
Dr. Michelle Calvo-Lorenzo
Dr. Calvo-Lorenzo from Elanco Animal Health discusses low stress animal handling and the benefits of using them.
Use the text input to search the transcript.
Click any line to jump to that spot in the video.
Use the icons to the right to toggle between list and paragraph view.
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
Good morning and good afternoon, everyone.
I'm very excited to be here with you all
in the 2020 UNL Open House,
that's in its new virtual setting.
And although we can't all come together,
I think there's a lot of wonderful speakers,
you've got on the panel for today.
And I'm very honored to be part of that group of speakers,
to talk about the very important issues
that we continue to talk about in our beloved beef industry.
So as mentioned in the introduction,
my name is Michelle Calvo-Lorenzo,
and I'm the Chief Animal Welfare Officer,
at Elanco Animal Health.
And I'm especially delighted to talk with you all,
about low stress cattle handling.
So for today, as you can see from this presentation outline,
I'm gonna be talking a lot more about the,
why we do what we do when it comes to cattle handling.
And I'm gonna touch a little bit,
on the what in the house,
but I felt that that's, those concepts are a lot more
easy to understand and apply on the farm,
when you can go to a workshop,
where these handling techniques and strategies
or when you can work with a consultant,
or an expert out in the field,
is there so many wonderful cattle handling experts out there
when they can come to your facility,
and work with your cattle, with your facilities,
with your people in your teams,
and also within the environment,
which you all work together to raise cattle.
And so in a virtual setting
that approach in discussing
that what and how isn't the best.
So I wanted to take this opportunity
to really talk more about why?
Why what we do works?
Why what we do gives us the impacts we hope to have?
The positive ones or why sometimes we get
the negative impacts that we don't want,
and ultimately too why this all matters?
Why we talk about cattle handling
whether it's the first time you're hearing about it today,
or it's the hundredth or the billionth of time,
you've heard about it today.
Why as an industry, we have to continue to talk about
all of these different important topics to enhance,
how we raise cattle every single day,
not just for the benefit of the cattle,
but for the benefit of ourselves
and the people that work on our operations every single day.
So to get started, let's talk more about low stress handling
and what it is, exactly.
So when we talk about low stress handling,
we're talking about handling principles,
that are really based on the core understanding
of not just cattle behaviors,
but how cattle as biological organisms
actually see the world around them.
And so what we know is that cattle are prey species, right?
We can be perceived as predators, right?
And they themselves are the prey species.
And over time, as we've domesticated cattle,
we've seen that their behaviors have evolved,
to help them survive, right?
Protect them, it's what they do to protect themselves
And so, there's a lot of literature
and a lot of great knowledge in this space,
where we understand these different behaviors,
which we call predator avoidance behaviors in cattle,
and many of these behaviors are hardwired
or what one would call instincts for cattle.
And what's also something that folks may not always realize
is that some of these behaviors, yes,
they're fixed meaning that they will always,
perform them like instinct such as turning
and facing you when you are within
the presence of cattle, right?
They'll turn and face you,
but there's other behaviors that you can actually change
over time and change with different experiences,
such as keeping that safe distance between themselves,
as cattle from you or other handlers.
And that distance can actually be very dynamic
and in a good way, it can be minimized.
And in other ways it can be really maximized
and lead to more temperamental animals.
So I'll talk a lot more about that safe distance,
in a few minutes,
but just want you all in the audience to understand
that a lot of these behaviors, again, come from a large,
large realm of literature and research,
and that, again, these behaviors are hardwired
and instinct for many standpoints,
but some of them can be developed,
some of them can be learned
and some of them can be improved if we do things right.
So how does it work?
This idea of low stress handling,
I'm sure many of us have heard this term many, many times.
How does it itself work?
Well, this low stress handling concept is really
what one could call a stimulus response relationship
whereby you the handler are the stimulus,
you're triggering a response in the cattle, right?
And your animals, and they then respond.
And that's kind of that relationship, very simple,
black and white simply put.
And so the handler stimulates,
and a response from the animal.
But when we think about low stress handling,
there's a lot of misperceptions in terms of,
how you stimulate that animal.
And really the idea behind low stress handling is that,
when you as a handler want to stimulate a response,
you stimulate a little bit of anxiety in your cattle, okay?
And note key here, as you see in bolded letters,
the key here is not to stimulate fear,
not to stimulate flight and not to stimulate any panic
or stress in the animal,
this is why we call it low stress, right?
So the idea here is to,
stimulate a little bit of anxiety in the animals,
and as a hardwired behavior,
those animals will respond to that
because they're prey species, right?
So this anxiety, when you stimulate it appropriately,
it works not stimulating fear, Okay?
Stimulating a little bit of anxiety works.
And we minimize getting to that point,
of stimulating fear by eliminating noise,
eliminating any aggressive or strong paces
or approaches towards cattle or animals,
by minimizing sudden movements,
and also eliminating any distractions,
that cause cattle to bark,
cause cattle to become more stressed or agitated,
or more panicked and fearful.
So we wanna minimize all of those things
we know that cause fear,
so that when we're interacting with cattle
and we do it appropriately,
we stimulate a little bit of anxiety to get their attention
and get them to respond.
And then we reward them when they do what we need them to do
so that we don't hit that level of fear
or panic in the animal.
And you as a handler will see that,
the more you work with your cattle,
and many of you probably know this way better than I do,
but the more you work with your cattle,
the calmer they become,
and more of these learning behaviors develop,
that help continue to promote
a positive human animal interaction.
And these animals learn to trust you,
they learn to understand what the routine is
and how to continue working with a person
in a low stress manner.
So I just wanna take the next couple slides,
to just talk a few essentials about low stress handling,
kind of your key takeaways, I guess,
in terms of low stress handling now that we know what it is
and why and how it works.
But some of these essentials I found in articles
that I thought were outstanding.
So I wanted to make sure I share these with you all,
as kind of key takeaways.
First off, one of the primary things
that many experts talk about,
is making the first experience,
whenever you interact with your cattle, a positive one,
because we know that positive low stress experiences,
impact cattle behavior.
And as I mentioned earlier,
it helps them develop those learned calm behaviors.
And the more you do it, the easier it is to work with,
those animals over time.
And it's also clear that we know,
especially throughout the literature,
that experience and how those animals experience
those interactions with you and interactions through
moving new facilities and things like that,
that it really rounds out how
and why cattle act the way that they do, okay?
So making that first experience a positive one
is really, really important.
The next essential I'd like to just briefly touch on is
acclamation, helping cattle become accustomed,
to handling and how you're gonna work with the cattle
and hopefully a low stress manner.
And so with this essential, the goal here
is to acclimate cattle, especially after a transition,
or if they're new or just born on the operation,
you wanna take time to work with these cattle,
in a consistent manner.
This is known to reduce stress,
essentially you're training the animals,
to be able to understand how they're gonna interact with you
and how they need to understand,
what it is you want them to do,
which way to move?
Which direction to move towards?
How to get through a facility.
All of those things are really important
that you do those early on,
especially with excitable or temperamental cattle,
because the more you work with these animals
and take the time to do this prior to an event,
or prior to a very important time,
like when you've got a process the cattle,
or vaccinate the cattle, or get them ready to ship,
whatever the case is,
you don't wanna to wait until that moment,
to acclimate the cattle.
They don't know what to expect and facilities
and surroundings will be new, which may elevate stress.
So taking the time to work with cattle daily,
is really important.
And another key thing is, when you do work with them
and they understand the process, and they understand
that you coming into their home environment,
isn't going to cause that fear and stress and that
they're gonna survive at the end of that interaction.
When they know that,
they can be relaxed in these surroundings.
And when they're relaxed, it's much easier for you,
the caretaker to pick up any signs of illness or sickness
or any indicators that are worrisome
that you may have to address.
So relaxed animals are really really important,
from that evaluation standpoint as well.
And you can get there by having the animals feel comfortable
and not panicked or fearful
every time you interact with them.
And another key goal of acclimating or training cattle,
with respect to low stress handling is consistency,
consistency in how you interact and communicate,
with those animals is really really important,
in achieving this essential here.
It helps build trust between you and those animals,
which ultimately leads to more positive handling.
Another essential is to, as I've mentioned before,
minimize anything that we know is fearful
or stressful for animals and two things
that we've got listed here are noise and distractions.
So again, I'm gonna touch a little bit on that,
throughout the presentation,
but eliminating any loud noises or distractions
and using again, calm approaches with animals,
is really, really important so that everything else,
that you're doing with those animals,
is productive and effective.
This next essential here talks about
applying pressure properly.
And I'll talk just a little bit about
the pressure and release system,
that is recommended by numerous experts
throughout the industry.
When we look at understanding cattle behaviors
and principles on how to work with those behaviors
to have cattle respond appropriately.
So again as I've mentioned,
the goal and how we interact
or apply pressure to cattle, right?
That stimulus, as I mentioned before,
in that relationship of low stress handling,
is to stimulate a little bit of anxiety in our animals,
not fear and not flight responses, right?
So we can apply pressure properly
by simulating a little bit of that anxiety
We can also control animal movement and lead them,
by again applying pressure appropriately,
and I'll talk with some images a little bit later
on what that looks like,
but talking about the flights on the point of balance
and blind spots, those are a lot of different strategies
and concepts that we typically use in low stress handling.
You may have heard those terms before,
but those are actually again well used
and effective when we work with those things appropriately,
and again applying pressure properly.
And last but not least,
how we present ourselves as handlers,
whether it's our position and our posture and our movement,
all of that ultimately results in,
what cattle do in our presence.
So cattle movements really are on us,
they're our responsibility, right?
They're domesticated animals and the rely on us,
their human caretakers for all of their needs.
And so therefore, as handlers,
we've got to make sure to take that responsibility,
one step further and make sure,
that every time we interact with cattle it's appropriate
and it's not even just where our bodies are positioned,
but it's our posture, it's how we demand leadership,
with these herds in our posture and our movement
and how we interact with these cattle as well.
And the last essential I just wanted to share here,
is keeping control and making sure that again,
when you communicate with your animals,
you have clear, consistent ways of communicating to them
and establishing leadership.
When that's there and it's clear to animals, you know,
you are here and yes, you may be perceived as a predator,
but you are only going to take these animals,
from point A to point B
and they're gonna survive that whole process,
and they learn that that's what happens
every time you interact with them,
it'll allow them to relax.
So it's important to be very clear and consistent
in how you communicate with your animals
and not confuse them with bad techniques or mixed messages.
So getting back to applying pressure,
it's important to know when, where,
and how to apply pressure, and also why, right?
Because that's all part of this relationship,
that we have in these human-animal interactions.
So, knowing that you will typically use
the least amount first and then escalate as needed,
in an appropriate way.
And then as I'll talk about later,
release that pressure when that desired response is obtained
as a reward to cattle.
And that's how they'll know that they're gonna survive,
and that you truly are not a threat to them,
as a typical predator would be in and out in nature.
So, just a couple of secrets,
before we move into cattle behaviors.
But really there's a few secrets that I found
that I think are worth sharing, first is that,
we think about the low stress handling techniques,
again, understanding why cattle act the way they do,
is really really key.
And once you, as a cattle caretaker handler,
know that knowledge or have that knowledge,
you're then going to hopefully find ways to apply
that in a way that helps you ask cattle what to do,
not force them to do what it is that you need them to do.
It's better for them and it's better for you as well.
Another important point or secret is that,
sometimes folks invest and spend a lot of time
on their facilities, and that's wonderful.
And if you've got top notch facilities,
they should help you when working cattle.
But we have to understand that facilities,
sometimes can also be a barrier,
if they're not properly maintained or taken care of
or updated as needed.
So we have to make sure that facilities themselves,
a, are in a barrier,
but also b, if you've got top-notch facilities,
and they're well-designed,
that you can't go in them with poor handling skills
and expect cattle to move through in a low stress manner.
Okay, they won't replace poor handling,
you've got to have it all.
You've got to have the well-designed facilities,
or facilities that really make it,
efficient for workers to do what they need to do,
and don't cause cattle balking, or fear or injury,
or any of those things.
And collectively it's the knowledge and skills
of the handlers plus good facilities,
that really really optimize low stress handling.
And last but not least, I found time and time again,
when looking through articles that the cost,
the true cost of low stress handling,
is the time you put into it, right?
So the time it takes for you to really learn,
about your animals, learn about how they're seeing,
and responding to what's in their environment.
Learning about their behaviors,
and then taking the time to apply
and practice the necessary skills that you learn from,
again workshops or conferences or reading the literature,
working with consultants, and again,
applying those things so that again,
it becomes commonplace in how you handle cattle.
So it really is that simple and that,
it's all about the time you put into it,
and time is money, right?
Time is very valuable.
So it's not to say that,
everyone's got all the time in the world to do this,
but really honing in on spending and investing your time,
to understand your cattle and understand the techniques,
that can work to improve their quality of life,
when they're interacting with you or your team,
is really really valuable and key to,
again low stress handling.
So now I'd like to just talk about low stress handling,
and why it works from the perspective,
of how cattle see the world around them
and how they respond with their behaviors.
So, how do cattle view the world around them?
As I mentioned earlier, we all know
that they're prey species, right?
So that's how they're,
that's the lens in which cattle live every day.
They're living constantly on alert,
and watching everything around them.
Because as prey species,
these are the survival strategies that they've developed
over time to help them survive against predation.
So the first thing that's important to talk about,
when we talk about how do cattle view the world around them,
is literally how do they see the world around them, right?
And that comes with the understanding of panoramic vision,
in our bovine beasts, okay?
So they have panoramic vision,
which just means they have a wide field
of peripheral vision around them.
So they can see a wide range of space and area around them.
And that can go anywhere from about,
300, to 320, 330, degrees around them.
So they can almost nearly see everything around them.
And this is because,
they've got eyes placed on the sides of their head,
as opposed to on the front side of their head.
So we had a picture of myself next to the animal,
on the left of your screen there,
you'd see that my eyes,
are obviously very closely placed, and as a predator,
that's what you typically see,
that the eyes are much closer placed,
and that's because we have a very different way
of perceiving our environment,
so that we as predators can survive and eat lunch, right?
And eat dinner and catch our prey.
And we use our eyes very differently,
as opposed to prey animals like cattle.
They have them on the side of their heads,
to help them maximize what they see,
so they can get away from potential threats.
The other thing that they also have
from a biological standpoint is horizontal shape pupils.
As you see here on this slide,
what, this image of the bovine eye.
And so that horizontal pupil shape helps them again,
enhance how they're able to see more space around them.
In addition to the panoramic vision,
that those two details I discussed,
they also only see two of the three primary colors,
so they can see the yellow greens, the blue purples
or violet's much, much better
and not so much of those red primary colors.
So this means, as a handler, it's good to know that
because they're much more sensitive,
to these different colors.
And that helps us as again handlers,
evaluate whether animals are overly reactive
to certain things in the environment,
or what are the colors that they can see,
that we need to keep in mind as we as we move our cattle.
Another interesting thing that people don't know is,
that cattle only have about 60 degrees of vertical vision,
meaning they can't like us see a wide range,
from top to bottom when they just look forward.
And so, as you see in this picture here,
really 60 degrees is not that much vertical vision.
And one way that I like to show people
what it's like to have limited vertical vision
like cattle do is to take their eyes
and if you look at my image here,
I'll make a fool out of myself,
but if you go ahead and stand up
and walk around with your eyes placed below your hands,
excuse me, place below your eyes
and cover the ground that you're walking on.
And just go ahead and walk around.
That gives you a good sense
of how cattle have limited vertical vision.
So this is why cattle, we need to give them some grace,
give them some time, be a little patient as they,
especially they move through new environments
because they can't see it all at once,
from the vertical standpoint, Okay?
They need to evaluate look up
and down side to side and look and evaluate.
But again, they have limited ability
to see what's what's in front of them,
from that vertical standpoint,
they also have blind spots directly behind their head,
as we see in this diagram here.
So they can nearly see a lot of space around them,
but that area behind their head directly
is where they're limited, right?
So it's important to stay out of the blind spot
so that we don't spook cattle
and get them dangerously excited or frightened.
But also from the standpoint
of trying to move cattle from that area,
it's very inefficient
because if they know you're back there,
what they're going to keep doing
is looking back at and looking for you.
And if they're looking back,
that means they're not moving forward
or moving in a direction you'd want them to, right?
So the blind spot is very important to keep in mind.
And the last point I'd like to bring up here
in terms of cattle perception
and their vision is that they have poor depth perception.
And this is because, again, as cattle
as you hopefully can see in this diagram,
they have eyes that are again on the side of their heads,
but because they're prey species,
those eyes can work independently of one another,
which means they have monocular vision.
Whereas us is a pre--, excuse me, predator species.
We have eyes on the front of our head
and our eyes fix on single objects
in order to have that depth perception.
So we can accurately go get our lunch, right?
And we can accurately hunt in the wild, if you will.
Whereas cattle have these eyes
that can actually work independently of one another,
because they don't always fix on a single object.
They have that poor depth perception
and so, as you see, when they approach puddles
or they approach shadows and things like that,
they don't see that very well
and need a little bit of time to evaluate that.
One thing I've always liked to tell students
is if you don't, if you wanna know
what poor depth perception is like go ahead
and take a jug of water and put a cup,
an empty cup on a table,
and then cover one of your eyes
and then try and pour the water into the cup.
And for some people they can,
they can get it, but for most people they can't.
And that's just, again, explaining how eyes as predators.
We need both eyes to fix on a single object
to be able to have that depth perception,
but cattle don't have that functionality for the most part.
So again, this helps us understand
how cattle are seeing their environment,
which helps us understand how we need to help
and work with them as they move
through different environments when we're working with them.
Another thing that's important
for cattle perception is sensitive hearing
cattle obviously are very sensitive
to high frequency noises.
And we have a lot of research in this space that shows them,
that shows us that high frequency noises
really bother them and it really does stress them out.
So they are very, very prone
to becoming more stressed
when they hear those types of noises.
And they're also more sensitive
to those noises than we as humans are.
So that's why the advisories and recommendations
are always about avoiding making any loud noises
when interacting with cattle.
So no whistling, yelling, whip cracking,
banging of metal on metal, air hissing,
all those sorts of things,
and really minimizing all of that noise as much as possible.
So that, again, we don't stimulate fear
and flight in the animals.
And last but not least, how do cattle communicate?
I always like to tease folks
and ask, you know, what cattle do?
Excuse me, what language do you think cattle speak?
If you're closer to Spanish speaking areas,
are they like Mexico, for instance,
are they gonna be good Spanish speakers?
Are they good English speakers?
Or if you grew up where I did
people like to speak a mixture,
what we call Spanglish,
maybe some cattle like Spanglish, right?
Maybe it depends on where they start
and where they end.
Well, really, no, they don't use human languages
to communicate, right?
What they use is their five senses
and we all know much about the different senses
of sight sound, taste, smell, and touch.
And those are all of the senses
that really become heightened.
As cattle are trying to understand
what's in their environment and how to respond to it.
So that is very, very vital also
in understanding how cattle are gonna perceive us
when we enter into their personal space
or their home pens or their areas,
and how to best minimize the stressful effects
that can come from that.
But these are all of the senses,
including all those other details that I mentioned,
how cattle perceived their environment.
So if we think about cattle behaviors in general,
there's a lot of basic principles and for the sake of time,
I'm gonna go through these fairly quickly.
But again, cattle are gregarious, social animals.
They always wanna be together
and they wanna go together in places, right?
So they don't like being isolated,
they don't like being separated from the group
and then relative to you, the handler, right?
The potential predator in the environment,
they wanna see you and they wanna go around you, right?
So these are some basic principles
that really help us understand
all of those different behaviors
that have evolved over time,
as cattle have become domesticated,
and we learn more and more about low stress handling.
So there's just a few principles
that I wanted to cover very briefly, which again,
a lot of these make a lot more sense
if they're new to you,
when you get to actually go
and do some hands on activities
or learn from other experts
and actually work with cattle and see how they respond.
But in a nutshell, the first concept
or basic principle we often hear
about in low stress handling is the flight zone.
And the flight zone is that personal space
around an animal or the collective flight zone
would be the collective personal space
of a group or herd of animals, okay?
Where, if you, as a handler
enter into that personal space,
you trigger a flight response or an escape behavior.
That's why we call it the flight zone, okay?
And so when you go into that space,
you trigger that escape behavior.
And it's important to know
that flight zones can be dynamic,
the flight zones will vary
depending on the temperament of the animals.
So how tame and wild they are,
but also experience and the more they interact
with people in a positive way
can really minimize the flight response,
that may come in a negative manner.
So such as animals jumping gates,
or just running and darting away from you,
the second they see you, right?
So the more that you have those positive experiences
and interactions with cattle,
the more that personal space
can change over time in a positive way.
And there's also folks that talk about the pressure zone,
and it's just kind of that zone of awareness,
that surrounds the flight zone.
And so you'll see that if you are in that pressure zone
or the animals are aware that you're around,
but you're not triggering that flight response
or that escaped behavior, right?
That they're, that they actually
start moving away from you,
you'll see that they'll turn and they'll face you.
And that's a good indicator
that you're in that zone of pressure,
if you will, where they're aware
that you're in their surroundings.
So, this diagram here, I pulled it right out of BQA,
and it's always a really nice illustration
of the flight zone and you'll see
that it's this abstract idea
of that personal space surrounding the animal.
We've also got this concept of point
of balance where we use that
to help steer the animal right, left, forward or back.
And the idea really is you've got this abstract
or imaginary line that runs laterally through the shoulders.
And by putting pressure from behind
you have that animal move forward,
putting pressure from the front,
you that animal will move back.
And then same thing here,
if you imagine that line running
through the animal from head to tail,
where again, if you put that pressure from one side,
they will veer the other way and in this instance,
if we put this pressure from the left side,
this animal will turn to the right.
So again, these are different concepts
and as I mentioned earlier,
you've also got the blind spot
where you don't wanna be moving cattle
from the standpoint of, again,
if frightening the animal and being a dangerous response,
or just again, being ineffective
and that they are gonna be spending time
looking for you rather than moving away from you.
Okay and so, again these illustrations always
are they can seem a little bit complicated
and intimidating for first time handlers,
but it's important to explain these
and how they work and how,
when you're inside the flight zone
as you see with position A you're stimulating
for that animal to start movement,
but when you're outside of that flight zone
or that personal space of the animal,
again, they're just gonna be aware.
And they're gonna kind of look at you,
but they're not gonna be doing
that escape behavior and move away from you.
So just a couple of principles
I'd like to just cover quickly
that are relative to the flight zone
and the point of balance that, again,
these are better illustrated in the field
with animals and facilities, but it's important
to cover these as concepts to explain why this works.
So the first one is what many experts
call the pressure and release system
and this essentially is where a handler
is gonna penetrate the flight zone.
So they're gonna go ahead
and enter into that personal space of the animal,
but they're also gonna retreat
as soon as that animal responds,
exactly the way that the person was hoping
that they would respond,
which means they move in a certain direction, right?
And this is important because having a pressure
in release system enables to stimulate
a little bit of that anxiety in the animal,
get them to respond, but then take that pressure off,
which is known to be a reward to cattle.
When you take that pressure off,
you're not mimicking what predators do in the wild.
Okay? And what they do in the wild
is they put constant pressure, right?
The predators are gonna come and their target
is to land their meal for the date.
So what they're gonna be doing
is putting constant pressure
and getting into that personal space
of that animal, or as close as possible,
which obviously elicits a lot of stress
and fear in your cattle, but it can also be very dangerous,
not just for cattle, but for you and your team,
especially if you have very wild
and aggressive animals in your herd.
Another concept in mimicking what's done
as a predator is deep penetration.
So not just going constant with pressure
into the flight zone,
but also going deep and getting close
to the animal very, very aggresively and very, very fast.
And that is also a predator type of behavior
and so, again, with cattle,
you wanna approach slowly and cautiously
and just stimulate that anxiety
that gets them to move in the direction
that you desire and as soon as they do that,
you reward them by taking that pressure off.
And the other concept that's important
in understanding how to work with again,
flight zones and point of balance
is alternating how you put the pressure
relative to the point of balance.
And this is really nicely illustrated with these pictures
and I'm gonna do my best here virtually
to explain this, but again,
seeing this in person or via videos on the internet,
really get the point across.
And essentially what we're talking
about here is making sure that animals
continue to move forward and when you have them
in an instance like this, where they're in a single file,
such as here is in this street shoot,
or the straight alley here, this,
even this curved one here,
the idea is to enter into the flight zone
of the animals, okay?
But then go ahead and assuming
that they have space to move forward, right?
We don't wanna push them to move forward
when they have nowhere to go.
So once they have space,
the idea is to enter them to the flight zone
and then cross the points of balance
in a manner that, again, you're putting pressure
from the front, but you're quickly crossing
that point of balance and then putting pressure
from behind and that stimulates
all of the animals to move forward.
So being able to enter that flight zone
and move in the opposite direction
of the desired movement by quickly crossing
each of those points of balances of each of the animals,
and then taking that pressure off
by leaving the flight zone,
same thing here in this diagram, in the curve shoots,
you're gonna have a handler that enters
into the flight zone and then quickly crosses
past each of those point of balances of each of the animals,
and then retreats and gets out of that flight zone,
where again, if animals are able to have the space to move,
and again, we know they're gregarious
and social animals and they wanna stick together.
So they'll follow one another.
So again, it's understanding
all of these different concepts and principles
and how to use them to, again, do things
like making animals continue to move forward
and helping them stay calm.
So putting a lot of these principles together,
again, we can look at again,
how we utilize the flight zone and alternating,
you know, how we put pressure
and take that pressure off
and we know, as I mentioned before,
that's more effective than mimicking predators
that put constant pressure and deep pressure on animals.
And so, as you can see here in these two images,
here's the instance where we have larger areas.
So out on range or out on pasture or large corrals,
where again, you've got a team
or you've gotta lead rider,
that's working here with the collective group
here, you've got the flight zone boundary
for the collective group,
but this lead rider is really working with this lead animal.
And really again, going inside the flight zone,
crossing that point of balance
and then getting out of the flight zone
and having that repetitive pattern
and working with that front animal,
whereas you've got other handlers in the middle
or the rear that are having a similar type
of movement or pattern in again,
alternating the pressure on the flight zone,
as well as some of the point of balances of the animals.
And having this experience again,
helps you move animals forward,
but it can also help you control the flow
of cattle moving forward.
And in this example here on the right,
we've got a group of animals that are moving
from a large space into a corral
and so, again, as the handler here is just standing
here in this corner, they can control
the flow of those animals going into that corral
by stepping forward into the flight zone
and backwards, stepping out of it
in order to help slow down that pace.
Whereas if you're moving forwards and backwards,
you're actually gonna have the opposite effect
and in some instances you may cause animals
when you're in their flight zone
and then moving in the left or right pattern.
In this instance, you may actually have animals
turn around and go back to where they came from,
which is not what the desired outcome is.
So just understanding again,
all of these different techniques
on how to work with the flight zone,
how to cross the point of balance
in your respective environments is,
oh, there's a lot of different ways to do it,
which is great, there's, it's good to have options,
and it's good to understand how and why these all work
and what makes best sense for you,
your team and your cattle.
And then the last set of images here
that I wanted to show again and putting it all together
in these principles is understanding
that having even wide back and forth movement
on the edge of the herd, again in large areas
like pastures and range and, and out in larger spaces
can really help not only gather your cattle
and narrow the herd, kind of like
what we're seeing in this instance,
but it can also help drive forward movement
by having these different types of movements
on the edge of the herd and not having to focus
on stragglers or independent animals
or those isolated animals,
and really working with the collective flight zone
and point of balance of these animals,
and this, again, not only helps narrow and group the herd,
so you can move them forward,
but it helps initiate movement as well as control movement.
So one more point on this in terms
of low stress handling is driving aides,
because we often hear that driving aides
can be very useful and they are.
Driving aides are always useful,
but I think it's important to remind ourselves
that the primary tool that's used to move
and work with cattle.
That primary tool is you, the handler you and your team.
Okay? As we see in these diagrams,
you are that primary tool and again,
it's not just you position yourself,
but the posture and how you move across the flight zone
and in the space around cattle,
it's really important that you recognize,
you and your teams recognize you're that primary tool.
And then yes, there are secondary tools available
if are needed, right?
Like your paddles and your flags,
and even the electric prod when used appropriately
those driving aides or those secondary tools
can be lifesaving or actually stress.
They can actually help reduce stress
by eliminating a dangerous event
or situation from happening.
So it's important to know that they're there,
but using them not as the primary tool,
to move or handle animals and most importantly,
that if they are used that they're not used aggressively
or on sensitive body parts as very,
very clearly outlined in our BQA standards.
And one thing I think is important to highlight
when it comes to again, low stress handling
is that facility design matters.
And this is why facilities are designed
in the many different ways that they are.
But we have to take into account that facilities
are gonna have, you know, sun positions
that are gonna affect how light is distributed
throughout those facilities.
We have to look and understand it,
how those facilities stand the test of time
throughout a day, right?
And throughout different seasons,
but also again, animal behaviors,
understanding how cattle will perceive their environment
throughout these facilities and that enables us,
it gives us the power as handlers
to really use those facilities effectively,
or go ahead and make minor or major modifications
to make them more effective.
So we know that again,
because cattle have poor depth perception.
When you see images like this,
where there's big shadows or dark barns,
where you're moving cattle from a standpoint of light
into a barn that's dark that that's not,
they're gonna balk,
and they're gonna have a lot of struggle,
a lot of struggle, and a lot of difficulty
going into these facilities.
So we gotta make sure to make
the right adjustments to fix that.
We know we've got lots of different flooring options
that help make floors a lot easier for cattle
to move on re--, you know, minimize slipping, falls,
trips, because those are very, very primal fears,
just like with people, cattle, feel them too.
And so any way that we can improve the traction
as well as the comfort, if cattle do slip and fall,
like we see with this tire mat,
all of those things that we can do to enhance the flooring.
So they're more secure in their footing
is very important for cattle,
and this is why we see a lot of that
in different facility designs.
Other things that we know make cattle balk are so simple,
we just, we just have to become accustomed
to removing those distractions,
like the garbage on the floor, jackets and caps,
hanging on Gates and fences just gotta be
conscientious of those things and always take the time
before moving cattle through facilities or areas.
And even after we work out to clean the areas
and get rid of all of those things because
they're easy distractions and one could clear up
and reduce stress in cattle.
And last but not least looking at,
how we're able to minimize distractions
can also come from that option of having solid sides
or open sides in our ramps or in our snakes
or the alleys or single files.
And again, everyone gets the question,
is it one or the other? And I often just say,
let's look at how cattle respond
given what are the distractions in those particular areas.
And sometimes putting solid sightings work,
sometimes they don't, sometimes putting solid sides
on both sides of an alley, for instance,
make the alley a lot darker.
And that doesn't always help darkness again,
doesn't always help.
So it's a matter of making minor modifications,
testing things out to see what works
and what helps your cattle still see you the handler
so that they can get that clear
and consistent communication from you
and knowing where to go and how you want them to work.
So lots of different aspects,
we could have a whole talk on just facility design,
but just wanted to get the point across here
that there's a lot of different components.
And it's important to think about those
in combination with how we handle cattle
through these facilities.
So, really quickly wanna talk about some of the impacts
that we see in the literature
that are negative versus the positive ones
when it comes to low stress handling
So when we think about improper handling,
we know that there are ethical concerns
in that aggressive, rough handling can be considered
abusive behavior, and there should be no tolerance of that.
In this industry, this industry works
very very hard to raise cattle with high standards of care.
And we worked very hard to continue the training of that.
So, that's the first point is the ethical concern
of improper handling and it can lead
to this abusive behavior, which is not tolerable.
And we know consumers don't agree
with abusive behavior, obviously.
So that's the first important point of improper handling.
But when we look at the other negative impacts
throughout the literature,
we see that improper handling or rough handling
gives animals and handlers,
both that increased risk of danger, injury, and death.
We can see damage to facilities
and equipment that is very costly to repair, right?
We see that if this is a repeated way
of working with cattle, that they then develop
bad habits and bad, dangerous behaviors over time,
which then eventually someone else
down the supply chain is gonna have
to deal with that too and we shouldn't,
we should not be spreading or sharing these
bad habits and dangerous behaviors
in our cattle throughout the supply chain.
We also see that there's an increase
in the difficulty in how cattle will be handled down,
every time people interact with them,
but also the time spent interacting with cattle
and the labor needed, ultimately,
which adds to more money and time
and also, even from the carcass standpoint,
you see that there's an increased rate
in bruising and injury, carcass damage,
as well as trim loss.
Improper handling in the literature
has also shown that we see increases in body temperature,
increases in heart rate, increases in distress response.
In this case, we're talking about
your glucocorticoid hormones or your stress hormones.
And we see a decrease in immune function.
So animals have a harder time fighting disease.
So ultimately collectively all of that
really translates into decreased productivity,
which is you all know better than I do that costs money.
We also see that when cattle are in the squeeze shoot
and they're agitated and excited
from all of the aggressive handling
that led them up to that squeeze shoot,
we see decreased weight gains.
We see tougher meat and an increase in dark cutters.
We've even seen research that shows
that when you look at that noise, as I mentioned earlier,
cattle don't tolerate noise very well,
that when the, when they compared the yelling
and whistling of handlers to that of the sound
of gates slamming, we saw that the yelling
and whistling had a higher,
more negative effect on the heart rate
and the agitation or movement of cattle
when compared to that of gate slamming.
So yelling and whistling really does
have a profound effect on cattle stress.
Let's now talk about the positive impacts
because I don't wanna be a negative Nancy
and talk about the negative things,
but let's now focus on the positive things
that we see come out of low stress handling.
We know that when it comes to low stress handling,
this can positively impact your profitability
and your production with your animals.
So in this example, here, calves that were handled
with low stress techniques had improved weaning weights,
and more specifically, they, these researchers saw
post weaning weight gains that changed.
So the change in the weight gains
where animals that were handled with low stress techniques
actually gained 13 pounds more than the control animals.
One week post weaning, and they gained 20 pounds
more than the control animals that didn't have
low stress techniques applied to them
one month post weaning.
We know that reducing handling stress
reduces sickness and enables cattle
to get back on feed more quickly.
Again, we're thinking about the impact
that low stress handling can have on the immune response.
And also we've seen that quiet handling,
so not just low stress,
but just a lot of quiet handling
and feedlots has shown reductions in bruising.
So feed lots that use quiet handling
and combination with low stress techniques.
So on eight point 8.35% bruising rates in their animals,
whereas feedlots that used rough handling,
which included a lot of that yelling
and noising and gates slamming had a 15.5% bruising rate,
low stress handling is really important
from everything we're talking about,
but acclamation again, that training
and making sure that cattle are becoming
accustomed to low stress handling also
has good profitability and production impacts.
So again, it's important for low stress handlers,
excuse me, for handlers using low stress techniques
to establish what it is that's gonna happen
when they're interacting with their animals.
And we've seen that the research shows
that when folks do that, they maintain
high reproductive rates in their herd.
And so essentially when they were able,
when researchers were able to help acclimate
their cattle to the low stress handling,
they saw improved conception rates,
decreased temperament scores, reduce cortisol levels,
or reduce stress in their animals.
They also saw decreased timing to puberty.
And we also see that when you can do this
in animals as young or as early as possible,
that you really do see those effects,
if they're consistent and how you interact with animals,
that you see them really carrying on over time.
So in this instance, low stress handling
and walking of young calves through a handling system,
yielded animals that were much calmer as adults.
So again low stress handling really does benefit cattle
and their handlers and handlers ultimately,
they're not only gonna just be able to interact
with their cattle and enjoy it,
but they're gonna learn how to read cattle
better and better.
And cattle will not think of us as those predators
that are a threat to their survival.
We know this saves time, and I love what Bud Williams,
has always stated in that the way to work cattle, excuse me,
"The way to work animals fast is to work them effectively."
So working them effectively doesn't mean fast,
it doesn't mean slow, it just means doing it right,
and understanding how cattle are reading you
and being consistent in communicating with them
because they will move effectively
when they are less stressed and more relaxed.
And a lot of these points, again,
I've shown you what's in the literature.
So, you know, it's supported by science,
but a lot of your industry leaders
that are out there that are fantastic experts
in explaining and demonstrating these things.
It's, they're really supportive
of all of these low stress handling techniques.
And one more interesting area
that's really developing now is this
relationship between the handler's beliefs
and their attitudes and their behaviors
and how that ultimately impacts the stress levels
or the overall wellbeing of their animals.
And we're seeing that when handlers have positive
and positive attitudes and behaviors,
that positively impacts their way of interacting with
cattle and we see decreased handling stress
and fear and the welfare state of the animal,
and even in their productivity and you also see calmer,
more productive cattle.
So really positive cattle handling experiences
and skills start with us, the people,
the handlers, and our teams, and how we set up
the expectations and culture of how we interact with cattle.
So this includes obviously having the responsibility
and taking the time to understand, again,
behaviors and low stress handling methods,
continuing to educate ourselves
and making sure that the training that we do
or that we ask our employees to do is effective and useful.
But it also requires that we reevaluate that
over time and that we learn from others,
and we seek out new opportunities
or new learning strategy or new strategies on that.
We can learn from one another
to make sure we're always enhancing
how we interact with cattle.
And don't forget that rewards, appreciation,
recognition that goes a long way
in working with your teams to continue
that positive interaction with cattle
and asking for feedback, whether it's asking experts
to come and see how you all handle cattle
and how we can make it better asking your employees
to give you feedback on the facilities,
on the environment, on what is needed
and what the limitations are to keep enhancing,
how cattle handling experiences get better over time
for both the handlers and for the cattle.
So really quickly, I wanna wrap up here
and why low stress, why low stress handling matters.
And ultimately, again, the beef industry,
we take a lot of pride and worked very hard
to raise cattle with high standards of care,
because we know that improved health status,
improved comfort productivity,
the ability for animals to just express
their natural behaviors.
Those are all things that lead to high standards
of welfare and ethically,
we know that doing this and having animals
that have a high quality of life
is ethically the right thing to do.
So when we think about cattle handling,
please understand that continuously falls
under this category of animal welfare,
but also people welfare and it's important
that we always take that standpoint
of not just doing what's right,
and what keeps everybody happy and comfortable,
both animals and people, but also safe, right?
So this is really, really a very broad category,
that's very important for us to keep in mind.
So we've gotta keep this handling process safe,
effective, and humane, but also recognize
that consumers continue to have growing concerns
about this topic and there's numerous surveys
out there that indicate that.
Be happy to share that with anyone for the sake of time.
I wasn't able to put that in the slide deck,
but there's a lot of data out there
and I'd be happy to share that if anybody
would like to see that data, but consumers are,
have continue to have growing concerns
about the quality of life on farms
and how decently and humanely livestock cattle
are being treated during their time on the farm.
And when they're transported to other locations
and ultimately this collect,
this will all come back to this big umbrella
of stockmanship, right?
And I really like how the stockmanship journal
put it that low stress livestock handling
is only a part of stockmanship,
albeit it's the indispensable part.
And so, as you can see here in this pie craft
here on the bottom right,
they do a beautiful job of highlighting all
of the different that collectively
can make up good stockmanship or stockmanship in general.
And you see that it's about the facilities.
It's about how you train your dogs.
It's about how your natural horsemanship
about how you rope your animals
and other areas potentially.
But also livestock handling
is a very significant portion here.
And that's why it's a bigger chunk of the pie.
And that's why they consider it very indispensable
and very essential, because you may not
have to have facilities or dogs or use horses
to really imp-- work with your cattle
on a low stress manner.
But you need to know how to work in a low stress manner,
whether you have these components
or not in order to truly get in,
get ahead in this area of good stockmanship,
it's really essential portion of how we work
with cattle every day.
And there's many different ways that we work with cattle.
So it's very important to understand
that that's a very crucial part of stockmanship
and that's why it's just a piece of the puzzle,
but it's a very important, indispensable
and essential part of the puzzle.
So I just wanna wrap up here with my final thoughts
and reminding the audience that cattle are not mind readers.
They need to be taught and conditioned,
especially if they're temperamental,
if they're excited, excitable animals,
but also if they're not handled often, right?
They work best when they are ready
and handlers have to get them to that quote unquote,
Raising cattles with high standards
of welfare is very important,
first and foremost, for the quality of life
for the cattle, right?
And I showed you a lot of science behind that
as the beef industry,
we ultimately wanna do what's right by cattle
for numerous reasons.
But raising cattle with high standards of welfare
is centered on the animals,
but we also have to center on ourselves as people
and make sure that this is also a safe
and a humane process for the people
and using low stress techniques, takes people into account.
So gotta raise cattle with high standards of welfare,
not just for the cattle, but for the people
and also for the beef industries, culture and image.
Because as I mentioned before,
consumers are really questioning and the trust level,
isn't where we want it to be.
And so we've gotta continue to help build their culture
and image by always doing what's right
and always doing what the science shows us
can guide us to do it better.
And again, I go back to not just knowing
the how and the what, of how we were cattle, but the why,
and knowing the why really helps us get ahead,
with raising cattle, using high standards of welfare.
And then last thoughts here again,
low stress handling can impact your profitability
and production, so we know, again,
that low stress handling the true cost there
is just spending the time and investing the effort
to learn about your cattle
and practicing the skills needed in low stress handling.
But as I showed you where, there's plenty of science
that the improvements are clear, the weight gains,
the conception rates, immune function, carcass quality,
milk production and the list goes on and on.
So lots of wonderful impacts,
positive impacts that can come from low stress handling.
And last but not least,
let's not forget that others will have to handle
cattle after they leave your care.
And if we don't interact with their cattle
each time in a consistent manner that is of low stress,
these animals are gonna develop bad behaviors, bad habits,
and dangerous instincts that can be learned
and worsened over time, if they're not handled correctly.
And eventually that's not just a problem
for you and your team,
but that's gonna be a problem
and a dangerous scenario for others down the supply chain.
So let's all make sure that cattle
are always off to a good start when they're in our care.
And last but not least, it's always makes sure
cattle have positive experiences.
Because again, that really enhances
how they continue to act interact with humans
as they progress from where they're at with you
to their endpoint at the slaughter facility.
And that really just gets back to enhancing
that quality of life, not just for your cattle,
but for you yourselves.
So with that, I appreciate your time and attention
and thank you all for, for everything
that you do to feed the world.
Really appreciate the time here with the conference
and look forward to having further discussion.
The screen size you are trying to search captions on is too small!
You can always
jump over to MediaHub
and check it out there.
Log in to post comments
icon arrow down
Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory
iframe embed code:
Copy the following code into your page
<div style="padding-top: 56.25%; overflow: hidden; position:relative; -webkit-box-flex: 1; flex-grow: 1;"> <iframe style="bottom: 0; left: 0; position: absolute; right: 0; top: 0; border: 0; height: 100%; width: 100%;" src="https://mediahub.unl.edu/media/14350?format=iframe&autoplay=0" title="Video Player: Low Stress Animal Handling: Why we do what we do" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div>