Sale day at an auction barn is an exciting event, with the cries of the auctioneer, the tension of the bidding and constant movement of cattle in and out of the pens, sale ring and stock trailers. But while the excitement is fine for buyers and sellers, the transition from the ranch through the sale barn and on to the next production phase can be a stressful experience for cattle.

Minimizing that stress is the main theme of a new training DVD titled “Focal Point, an Auction Market BQA Guide,” produced by the checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance program and the Livestock Marketing Association.

The DVD draws on the experience of several industry experts who provide practical advice on how to minimize stress and prevent injuries through the marketing phase, thus protecting animal health, animal welfare and beef quality.

Key questions

An introductory chapter encourages auction-barn managers to take a “big-picture” look at their facilities, employees and animal-handling practices. By asking the right questions, managers can identify potential problem areas, determine policies and build a staff-wide commitment to BQA.

Loading and unloading

Wayne Kruse, owner of Centennial Livestock Auction in Fort Collins, Colo., and a past president of LMA, outlines how sale-barn managers can communicate with sellers, buyers and truckers to ensure cattle arrive in good health and condition. He also stresses the need to train crew members to handle cattle properly during loading and unloading.

Shawn Madden, co-owner of Torrington Livestock Markets, Torrington, Wyo., outlines specific methods for proper loading and unloading, emphasizing the importance of slowing down to keep cattle calm.

Order buyer Dell King, owner of King Livestock Company, Inc., Hopkinsville, Ky., offers tips on how to load cattle onto trailers, assuring proper weight distribution, low stress and prevention of injuries.

Animal handling

Stockman Curt Pate, from Helena Mont., discusses how understanding the natural behavior of cattle allows easy, low-stress handling. Pate demonstrates how to use the animals’ points of balance and natural flight zones both on foot and on horseback.

Mark and Jennifer Houston, owners of the East Tennessee Livestock Center, Sweetwater, Tenn., discuss tools for moving cattle, saying rattle paddles work well for low-stress handling and electric prods should be out of reach, reserved for extreme needs.

Pen management and non-ambulatory cattle

Bob Smith, DVM, a consulting veterinarian from Stillwater, Okla., outlines how to manage pens, watch weather conditions, monitor health and sort cattle to prevent injuries and disease. Smith also discusses humane treatment of sick, injured and non-ambulatory cattle.

So far, LMA has sent approximately 2,000 of the DVDs to auction markets across the country, covering 99 percent of the auction markets in the United States. LMA also encourages auction markets to reach out to their state BQA coordinator to further certify their markets and look at possible producer training opportunities. State departments of agriculture and state veterinarians also have received the video.

“We feel that livestock auction markets have a good story to tell about their BQA and animal-handling practices,” says Kristen Hendricks, vice president of membership services for LMA. “But there is always room for more education and a renewed focus on this very important issue.”