Attendees at a recent cattle stewardship conference in northwest Iowa heard a common, simple message from speakers that when taken to heart can improve a farm’s economic bottom line: comfortable cattle perform better and consequently, are more profitable.

Temple Grandin, nationally noted animal behavior specialist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, pointed out how small changes in cattle handling systems can dramatically improve the flow of cattle through a chute system.

“Cattle don’t like shadows and, just like people, remember a bad experience,” she said. “It’s important to reward the cattle and build their confidence.”

Dean Fish, certified trainer for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, told the more than 140 participants that working cattle slowly is actually working cattle quickly. In other words, excited cattle take longer to move, sort and load. As part of his presentation, Fish demonstrated that cattle have a point of balance, and knowing that is key to understanding whether the animal will move forward, stop or turn.

Program organizer Beth Doran said cattle well-being was a major focus of the conference, with six breakout sessions featuring separate topics: dealing with pain management, designing comfortable cattle facilities, low-stress weaning, processing cattle, managing heat stress and performing a feedlot assessment.

“Cattle producers are involved in a number of practices ranging from weaning and vaccinating to providing daily care and dealing with day-to-day climate change,” Doran said. “When animal handling is performed correctly and using good stewardship, potential stress on both the animal and the producer is greatly reduced.”

Doran, who also is Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef specialist in northwest Iowa, pointed out that comfortable, stress-free cattle result in beef that’s more tender and juicy, important qualities for consumer satisfaction.

This conference was organized by the Iowa Beef Center, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Lakes Community College, and Iowa Cattlemen’s Association with local support. Participants met the requirements to become Beef Quality Assurance certified.

More information concerning cattle well-being and stewardship can be accessed from the IBC website at www.iowabeefcenter.org or by contacting a regional ISU Extension and Outreach beef program specialist.