Livestock markets are just one of the links in our food supply chain between the farm/ranch gate and the consumer’s table. Livestock auction barns, like livestock producers, face both challenges and opportunities to improve animal well-being. During the December 2nd Animal Care Wednesday Webinar, Kristen Parman, Vice President of Membership Services for Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) shared some of the challenges auction markets face to improve animal care.
- Safety – Handlers and the animals both should remain safe during all tasks performed at auction barns. Facility maintenance and employee training are important factors to ensure work place safety.
- Shortage of qualified workers – This challenge is not unique to livestock auction markets, but is a challenge of all livestock sectors. A shortage of qualified animal handlers puts additional pressure on employee training programs on the various required tasks, such as loading/unloading animals, sorting, and moving animals through the pens and alleyways.
- Use of handling tools – There are “no bad tools, they all have their role.” Ensure that all employees understand how to use each tool in an appropriate manner. This means that sort sticks and flags should be used as an extension of the employee’s hand. This allows them to stay at a safe distance from the livestock in case the animal kicks or charges.
- Handling weak, lame, or dead animals – Auction barns are very public businesses and owners should train employees on proper techniques for moving compromised animals. Be considerate of how you carry out the situation and the perceptions of those watching. How our compromised animals are treated speaks volumes. Facility designs of auction markets pose unique challenges to handling animals that may need assistance moving. Some equipment exists, such as sleds and slings, to assist handlers in moving livestock that go down.
Parman also shared the main areas where auction markets are making improvements in safety conditions and the recommendations LMA makes to its member auction barns.
- Have a trained market employee present for all loading or unloading of animals, regardless of the time of the day consignors show up.
- Have livestock assessed upon arrival by a trained employee. Animals still need to be able to move freely multiple times after they are unloaded at the auction barn.
- Maintain footing in the loading/unloading areas to prevent slips and falls. Slips and falls are an easy thing to correct by slowing down, monitoring proper footing, and improving stockmanship skills.
- Secure all gates properly, all the time.
Proper animal handling and care starts on the farm and should continue through the auction barn. Challenges at auction markets typically arise from the condition animals arrive in from the farm. Auction markets are just a hub for livestock to pass through. For auction barns to run smoothly with proper animal flow, producers should practice timely culling decisions or euthanize animals humanely based on Beef Quality Assurance best management practices. Producers and auction market workers need to work together to maintain the highest level of care and well-being for the animals that supply us food.
Contact Kristen Parman at 816.891.0502 for more information about Livestock Marketing Association resources on animal handling or employee training for auction barns.