8. Best practice cattle handling


Music Hello, I’m Boyd Holden, a Livestock Handling Consultant and I’m here at Trangie Research Station to share with you the tools that we are going to use for livestock handling. We’re here creating a learning resource about handling sheep and cattle. Music Handling livestock starts well before we have cattle in the yards. The way in which we initially approach cattle can affect the whole process for the whole day. By understanding animal behaviour and what we need to do to communicate with them can make the job of working with animals easier, more efficient and safer for both the animals and the humans. Cattle are herding animals. This means that they seek comfort and protection from being in one mob. This means you should make sure that you gather all the animals together before you head off in the direction you wish to go. Remember, we are not chasing the animals, we are communicating with them by applying pressure and releasing it and using their flight zones. It is our movement and position that stimulates individual and herd movement. Vision is the main sense which livestock use to communicate with each other and it is the one that we are using to move livestock. Always remember, if they can see you, you can influence them. The movement of the person on the bike going from left to right is affecting all the cattle, not only the cattle at the back, but the cattle in the lead. The person in the front serves two purposes: firstly giving direction to the cattle and the stockpersons and secondly setting the pace. Wherever possible the cattle should walk. Cattle that run to yards or are agitated are more unpredictable, difficult to handle and often need more time to settle before they can be worked. Music The stockperson creating the movement should move back and forth, zigzagging behind the herd, applying and releasing pressure to individual animals. This person should not linger behind each animal’s blind spot as this will cause an animal to stop and turn around. It is important that the sweeping movements are wide enough for the person to come into the field of vision of the lead animals. This ensures that the lead animals have pressure applied upon them and the movement continues. This means that the movement of the herd is not only a result of the pressure on the followers, it is easier to maintain movement. The hardest aspect of moving cattle is starting the movement. Music Before you head off to get the livestock you must have a plan. Have the yards and equipment prepared and communicate clearly with your fellow workers their roles and responsibilities. When moving cattle through the yards it is our position to the animal’s eye and our movement which is influencing them. Yelling and excessive noise causes livestock stress and confuses them making our job more difficult. Moving cattle through the yards is started by getting the first five animals to move through the gate. Once we have the initial flow we can then regulate the flow by using parallel movement. This will help with counting and influence the speed of the livestock flow. Remember, we want to be influencing the livestock through the gateway and make sure that before we stop them we want to slow them down. When moving cattle from yard to yard we are not making them go there, we are influencing the animals so that they decide to go where we want them to go. We do this by using our body position, movement and applying and releasing pressure. When working together and moving cattle from yards to yards make sure that you do not put too many cattle in a yard. The general rule is that you only fill the yard fifty per cent full. This is so that we can get into position safely and that the livestock can move around the yard. The general rule is when people are closing gates other people should not pressure the cattle which may force them back onto the person closing the gates. So, when several of you are moving from yard to yard you should all close the gate and remain together. Once the gate is properly latched you can then proceed. A trick to help you move the cattle through the yards is to allow them to go back to where they came from and they will see that the gates are closed. This will help them think of an alternative route of moving out of that yard. When opening gates that livestock are going to move through, make sure that the gate is not going to cause injury or harm to the livestock and that it is also in the best position for you to close the gate in a safe and timely manner. When cattle are in a smaller yard you do not have to get into the yard to influence or move the cattle you can use the same principles as mentioned previously: position in relation to the eye, applying and releasing pressure and using movement to influence the animals. You can use a visual goad to help you do this. Moving the cattle from the force to the race can be stressful and confusing to cattle. To help minimise this, it is essential that you only fill the force fifty per cent full and that you clearly communicate with the cattle where you want them to go. Again, use your body position to get the first animal to go and then move into position so that the other animals can follow. Parallel movement can help you to achieve this. Wherever possible do not have an isolated animal. To move the cattle in the race we still remain quiet and do not need to touch them. The same principles to move them still apply. Animals should be quietly moved by applying pressure and then releasing it as the animal moves. Moving along the race in the opposite direction to the cattle will cause them to move forward in the race. This is often referred to as parallel movement as the handler is moving parallel to the desired direction of the cattle. The handler can increase cattle movement by then jumping or moving faster or using a livestock talker if required. It is important that slide gates are either fully opened or fully closed. This will minimise injury to the cattle and to you and prevent damage to the infrastructure. Always stand to the side of the gate when opening and closing them. Cattle should be returned to their paddocks in the same quiet and steady manner that they were moved from their paddock. It is a good idea when moving stock to the same or different paddock to take them to water before you leave them. Before you leave them make sure that the livestock are calm and settled. This is very important. Cattle have great memories and their behaviour is influenced by their experiences. If we leave them in the right frame of mind they will have positive things to think about when they see us again. This will help over the lifetime of the animal when it comes to handling and moving livestock. It is of course also better for them. Music .

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