Stress is a big factor contributing to beef product merit and many diseases which affect cattle. The stress related to extreme weather conditions most often cannot be avoided. However, how cattle are handled, either when processing, vaccinating or even clipping in preparation for a show, can cause undue stress, which can lead to illness and decreased meat quality. Therefore, proper handling, shelter and transportation are important to the safety and welfare of beef production. Facility design, preparation and the right attitude are big steps toward proper cattle handling.
A good facility has been described as being horse high, bull strong and hog tight. You need to keep this in mind as you begin plans and material preparation for constructing new working facilities.
The facility needs to be designed so cattle can be easily driven. Design alleys and working pens so animals can be sorted easily before and after processing. The corral should facilitate the movement of cattle from a large area into smaller pens and working alleys and into the crowding alley. Avoid corners where cattle will balk, and pay attention to the placement of gates. A curved crowding alley is highly recommended so that animals won’t balk from seeing a dead end. The installation of solid sides on the crowding pen and crowding alley will keep the animal from being distracted or spooked by people and objects on the outside. Blinders on squeeze chutes and solid sides on AI chutes will also help keep the animals calm during processing.
Eliminate hazards in the facilities that will cause injury to animals and humans. Projections and sharp edges on gates and fences can cut and bruise animals. To help prevent injury, floors in the working area should not have a slippery surface. Eliminate openings where animals might entrap a foot or their head.
Unnecessary noise in the working area provides for a very distracting atmosphere for cattle being processed and will cause undue stress. Muffle the sound of banging gates and crashing chutes with rubber or plastic stoppers. Barking dogs or screaming humans will excite and stress animals and simply need to be controlled. Maintain the facility. Make sure hinges, latches and other mechanisms are in good repair and are properly lubricated.
When jobs are done efficiently in a calm and controlled manner, the task will be completed in a satisfactory time frame. Working with a good attitude positively affects other workers and can be transferred to the cattle being processed. And remember livestock are herd animals. Understanding the importance of lead animals can help cattle flow in crowding alleys more efficiently.