The best facilities and the latest technology make handling cattle easier. But they don't make the manager. And, until the owner or manager is convinced that proper handling practices pay off economically, it's unlikely that employees will follow procedures day in and day out.
This economic incentive, according to Temple Grandin, Colorado State University (CSU), ensures that proper handling becomes the norm on any operation.
It's evident the economic signals are ringing loudly. Grandin says attendance at her handling seminars is increasing quickly, especially from the feeding industry.
People Are Ready Grandin says Monty Roberts' comments (see page 47) are true - people are at a greater readiness to understand and accept proper handling techniques. And, it's on people where she's focusing her training efforts.
"I'm placing the emphasis on training people to do things right," Grandin says. "Besides those who handle animals daily, it's important to train the manager of an operation. Without management's strong backing, a handling program likely won't stay in place. In fact, getting management's buy-in is the single most important thing at the ranch or feedyard. The enforcement of handling policies and leadership must be strong."
Grandin says too often people just want to buy the handling technology and not spend the time necessary to learn proper handling. And while this might initially make handling faster and easier, it's not an overall fix, nor will it result in long-term economic gain.
Frequently, it's simple fixes that help. While working with feedlots to eliminate electric prods in the processing area, Grandin says she may only need to demonstrate easy procedure changes such as opening the backstop or tying up chains to reduce the noise of banging gates and panels.
Reduce Trauma "Anything you can do to reduce noise reduces trauma," Grandin says. "Corrals should be solid, but they don't have to be noisy. Rubber bumpers on gates and doors significantly lower noise levels.
"Give the cattle light and lots of it," she adds. "Try to make it shadow-free light, too. Translucent plastic panels can help achieve this if you're ret rofitting a processing area. The more natural the light, the better. Cattle will move toward light, but balk at darkness."
Bruising is a costly problem that can be reduced quite effectively, as well. "There's no accountability for injuries caused by personnel," Grandin says. "All the technology in the world won't stop the bruising, but economic incentive will. As long as bruise losses can be passed from the producer to the packing plant, there's no motivation to reduce them."
In the early '80s, Grandin conducted a survey that showed cattle sold on a liveweight basis had twice as many bruises as cattle sold in the carcass. The economic incentive of producers being responsible for losses when sold in the carcass reduced rough handling, she says.
Cooperatively, all segments of the industry can reduce bruises by at least 15%, according to a 1993 Strategic Alliance field study. This results in savings of $2 million per year. A comparison of the 1992 National Beef Quality Audit and the 1993 field study is shown in Table 1.
"As people start building alliances, we're going to have more interest in things like this," Grandin says. "But, as long as we have a segmented market, it will continue. We have to start protecting our interests more.
"One of the first things we should consider to reduce trauma is equip trailers with air ride suspensions," she says. "It reduces stress because the cattle aren't bouncing up and down.
"The suspension device is about equal to the weight of one feeder calf, it's not that heavy and the benefits returned will outweigh the costs in the long run," Grandin says. "People who show horses have learned the value of this device as have moving companies. We protect our furniture more than our cattle."
Grandin suggests to reduce noise in livestock trailers, use rubber door pads and floor pads or sound-deadening bedding.
Overloading or improper loading can create stress, sickness or death. Death losses are often greatest when temperatures are near freezing and rain or freezing rain blows into a truck, causing the hair coat to lose its insulation.
Grandin recommends the loading densities in Table 2 to ensure lower stress hauling.
Picture Memories Grandin says animals remember events in pictures. Keep this in mind as you move cattle. "For example, if a horse happens to flip backwards in a trailer the first time he's loaded, he'll be scared of all trailers," Grandin says. "If, however, he flips backwards in a red trailer the 20th time he's loaded, he'll be scared only of red trailers."
She says cattle are much the same. If the first time they enter a squeeze chute is traumatic, it's likely they'll balk at all squeeze chutes.
Cattle also operate on instinct, such as their flight zone and the point of balance. Grandin says to always walk on the edge of the flight zone so the animal can see your movements (See Figure 1). To move them forward, walk behind the point of balance. Conversely, to move them backward, walk in front of the point of balance.
"Using these techniques, you actually use the behavior wired into the animal," Grandin says. "Learn the difference between learned animal behavior and instincts and you'll move them more efficiently, with less trauma."