Handling livestock is an integral aspect of modern farming and ranching operations. The key to successful cattle handling lies not only in advanced equipment but also in a mindful approach that takes into consideration the animals’ perspective. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of a proper livestock handling system, delve into the components that make it effective, and highlight the significance of adopting a cattle-friendly mindset.
The Components of an Effective Livestock Handling System:
A self-catch headgate automatically secures the animal’s head as it move toward the end of the squeeze. The self-catch design eliminates the need for a person to operate the closing mechanism, this ensures every animal is caught and eliminates the risk of an animal being hip locked. By restraining the animal with a headgate the animal and producer are in a safer position for a procedure that needs to be done while the animal is in the squeeze chute.
These specialized chutes are designed to immobilize cattle temporarily, ensuring safety for both the animal and the handler during procedures like vaccinations, branding, and hoof trimming. The confined space minimizes the chance of injury, broken needles and provides a controlled environment for necessary tasks.
Adjustable alleys are pathways that guide cattle from either the crowding tub or bud box to the squeeze chute. The alley design can be one that keeps the animals in single file or that allows the animals to stand side by side. Both designs can be adjusted in width to accommodate different cattle sizes, which prevents the possibility of animals turning and optimizes the flow of animals and while minimizing stress. On longer alley sections an access can be added to help a producer enter the system without having to climb panels or walk to the end of the system to enter it.
A bud box is a confined space where cattle can be easily turned around, encouraging them to move calmly and willingly in the desired direction. This technique minimizes stress and frustration for the animal, making cattle handling more effective. The bud box relies on the producer’s knowledge of how the animal will react to his/her movements and positioning to calmly guild them through the handling system.
A crowding tub is a circular enclosure that funnels cattle toward a desired location, such as a squeeze chute or loading ramp. The design capitalizes on the natural instinct of cattle to move in a circular pattern, minimizing resistance and stress. They often feature a crowding door with a locking mechanism that can be advanced as the animals move forward in the system and prevents them from turning around.
Benefits of Proper Livestock Handling Systems:
- Safety: For both the handler and the cattle, safety is paramount. Proper equipment and handling techniques reduce the risk of injuries to both parties involved by eliminating direct contact between animal and livestock producer. This in turn ensures a smoother operation.
- Stress Reduction: When cattle feel comfortable and understand their surroundings, their stress levels decrease. This not only improves the animals’ well-being but also leads to better meat quality and productivity. It also makes for a less stressful experience for the producer.
- Efficiency: An organized system streamlines processes and reduces the time it takes to complete tasks. Animals with flow to the desired areas more freely and will be less likely to balk, which eliminates the need to use a hot shot or twist a tail. This leads to higher productivity and cost savings for the livestock producer.
- Improved Animal Welfare: Ethical treatment of animals is a cornerstone of responsible farming. A proper handling system ensures that animals are treated with care and respect, enhancing their overall welfare.
Crowding Tub vs. Bud Box:
While both crowding tubs and bud boxes serve the purpose of facilitating cattle movement from a holding area to the handling system, they have distinct differences. A crowding tub relies on the natural tendency of cattle to move in circles when they’re unsure about where to go. With this concept, as the crowd gate is closed the animals will start to circle and with the only exit being on the opposite of where they came from they will move toward the exit. The crowd door can be advanced as the animals move through the exit, prevent any chance of back tracking.
In contrast, a bud box encourages cattle to use their “fight or flight response” (generally cattle lean heavily on the flight side) to turn around and head toward the last known safe location. In the case of a bud box it’s the way they came from. By understand this behavior a producer can use the bud box and his/her position to calmly direct the cattle toward the handling system.
Both the crowding tub and bud box systems are effective in moving cattle along the handling system. The deciding factors on which setup to go with generally comes down to the producer’s yard layout and their individual stockman ship skills.
The Role of Mindset in Livestock Handling:
Even with the most advanced equipment, the mindset of the livestock producer plays a crucial role in successful cattle handling. Understanding how cattle perceive their environment is essential. Cattle have a wide field of vision, but they struggle with depth perception. They also notice sudden movements and unfamiliar sounds. To create a calmer environment:
Loud noises, moving machinery, and sudden movements can stress cattle. Keep distractions to a minimum during handling to maintain a peaceful atmosphere. Things like generators, idling tractors should be located in places where the noise is muffled or faint.
Reduce Stress on Yourself:
Like most animals, cattle can sense human emotions. Approach animal handling calmly and confidently to keep the animals at ease. If the animal senses that a producer is anxious or agitated it will be more likely to refuse to go where it needs to go triggering an elevated state of fight or flight.
Cattle are sensitive to their surroundings. Avoid handling near things that might trigger fear or aggression, like dogs or unfamiliar equipment. It is important to look at your setup objectively from an animal’s perspective, make sure sight lines are clear of jarring colors and movement. For example don’t place a headgate facing a busy highway or dog pen, this will keep the animal from wanting to go through the headgate and instead cause it to balk and refuse to move forward.
Familiarize Your Animals with the System:
Regularly lead cattle through the handling system without performing any procedures. This helps them become accustomed to the process and reduces fear associated with entering the system. The use of positive reinforcement will help the animal associate the handling system with positive experiences. By offering treats, feed, or other rewards when the cattle willingly approach or enter the system will help with the positive association and reduce anxiety.
A proper livestock handling system, encompassing squeeze chutes, self-catch headgates, adjustable alleys, bud boxes, or crowding tubs, contributes to safer, more efficient, and less stressful cattle processing. However, the real transformation comes with a shift in the livestock producer’s mindset. By understanding cattle behavior, minimizing distractions, and managing stress, producers can create an environment that fosters better handling outcomes and a more harmonious relationship between producer and animal.
Contact Real Industries at 1-888-848-6196 for all your livestock handling equipment needs.