Low-stress cattle handling techniques

I spent the better part of last week at the Range Beef Cow Symposium in Scotts Bluff County, Neb. It’s a very different kind of country out there.

Driving through the country, you start to imagine what it must have been like for the pioneers to travel through those long vast landscapes. When they reached Chimney Rock outside of Scotts Bluff, that was the halfway mark for the Oregon Trail wagon train. It also signaled the start of the hardest part of the journey through the Rocky Mountains.

If you have that “pioneer” spirit — the willingness to endure hardships in order to explore new places or try out new things — then you might have tried some low-stress cattle handling techniques. Some of the ideas and concepts of these techniques are opposite of what some have been trained to do.

First of all, work with new cattle daily during the first few days. This will build trust and lead to a more positive working process. Eliminate loud noises and use a calm, cool approach with the animals — and each other. This will get a more positive response.

Use the animal’s point of balance — that spot on the cow which can make them stop, turn or go. Some call this spot the pressure zone or flight zone.

By using this natural instinct, you can make them go where you want them to go. The handler’s position, posture and movement all determine what cattle do in our presence. Their movements are up to us!

Keep control! Low-pressure doesn’t mean you’re not in control. Clear, consistent communication allows animals to relax. If you have that over-anxious family member rushing to get the cattle worked, you need to get them under control before you start!

Jody Holthaus48 Posts

Jody Holthaus is the Meadowlark Extension District agent in the area of livestock and natural resources.

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