It’s one thing to embrace low-stress cattle handling techniques. At Cattlemen’s Choice Feedyard, Inc. (CCFI) in Gage, OK, they exercise newly received cattle until cattle are comfortable with their new environment and handlers.

Exercise in this case, according to CCFI's Jarred Shepherd, is simply moving cattle with a positive stimulus. Rather than leaving cattle to be handled only to pull or process, exercise means quietly moving them around so they get used to everything more quickly. For stocker cattle, the exercise might take place in a grass trap or drylot pen.

“The ultimate goal in cattle exercise is to keep the cattle normal and healthy,” Shepherd told participants at the recent Wheatland Stocker Conference. “It won't replace herd vaccination or antibiotics for a sick calf, but it can decrease the recovery time.”

The amount of exercise depends on the set of cattle. “Producers should use observation of herd appearance, health and appetite to determine the amount of activity needed per pen or per individual,” Shepherd says.

At CCFI, Shepherd says making a point to exercise newly arrived cattle has improved feed and water intake, increased gain and decreased pulls.

When exercising cattle, Shepherd recommends:

• Remember flight zones and the point of balance.
• Avoid yelling and prodding.
• Understand cattle’s natural movements in and out of corrals and pastures.
• Don’t use too much pressure. Cattle should move at a comfortable pace.