Animal handling at the packing plant or the feedyard both follow the same basic principles. If you are training or monitoring feedlot employees, Temple Grandin, PhD, Colorado State University, offers advice on the key areas to emphasize.

Speaking at the 2012 American Meat Institute Animal Care & Handing Conference in Kansas City, Mo., this week, Grandin detailed several points of contact with cattle that should be concentrated on and evaluated when training employees.

  • Use flight zone principles. “Don’t be in the animal’s blind spot behind its butt,” Grandin explains.
  • Understand point-of-balance. “Go behind the shoulder – it’s point of balance – to get it to walk forward,” she says.  See information on
  • No yelling.
  • Move cattle in small groups. “Good cattle handling requires more walking,” Grandin says. “Bringing up the right amount of cattle in groups will require more walking.”
  • Fill crowd pen half full. “Re-name them passing-through pens,” Grandin says. “Wait until there is room for the cattle to walk single file, then bring them in and let them pass through. Don’t let animals stand in the crowd pens and don’t push them with the crowd gate.”
  • Get electric prods out of people’s hands. Use driving tools such as flags or paddles, but don’t over use them as they can also bruise cattle.
  • Always watch out for human safety. Some cattle that have only been worked with horses or that have been worked by dogs may be dangerous to humans on-foot, or may be apt to kick behind them.
  • Have appropriate non-slip flooring with properly grooved cement.

Grandin has on her website material on flight zone and cattle handling materilas in English and Spanish.