If you’ve yet to consider ways to improve animal handling in your operation, consider this:

“Prey animals have survived in nature, aware that predators select the lame, depressed and weak,” explains Tom Noffsinger, DVM, a cattle handling expert. “If caretakers behave like predators, cattle will hide signs of depression and disease from these people as long as possible. Understanding more about the visual, auditory and sensory abilities of cattle encourages handlers to override their predator tendencies, such as to chase and yell.”

Besides reducing stress for both cattle and their handlers, a number of stocker producers who take low-stress handling seriously continue to report reduced morbidity, mortality and subsequent breakevens.

Noffsinger will present some of the finer points of implementing low-stress handling at the 2010 International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare May 19-21 at Kansas State University.

For instance, Noffsinger explains, “Handlers who reward cattle motion with release of pressure can quickly train cattle – and in doing so, create mutual respect and develop trust. Understanding that cattle like to see what is pressuring them and where they can go is fundamental to low-stress handling. Caretakers who concentrate on low-stress handling skills increase their powers of observation, recognize abnormal behavior and attitude and develop the confidence and skill to manipulate behavior to improve levels of animal welfare.”

For more information about the symposium, see www.isbcw.beefcattleinstitute.org/.