Animal handling is an important component of an overall animal welfare strategy, and implementing low-stress practices are not only healthy for the animal, but also make things easier for the animal handler.
Ohio State University Extension will be offering a free livestock handling demonstration on Nov. 20 from 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the Scott Pfeiffer Farm, 4315 Marion Johnson Road near Albany, Ohio. OSU Extension beef cattle specialist Steve Boyles will discuss the moving and handling of livestock and demonstrate some animal handling principles.
“In today’s social environment and with agriculture under increasingly close scrutiny, it’s important that livestock producers and animal handlers apply low-stress animal handling principles,” said Rory Lewandowski, an OSU Extension educator in Athens County. “Additionally, evidence clearly shows it is a more productive way of handling livestock.”
During the handling demonstration, a number of animal handling principles will be discussed, including:
• Flight zone: The flight zone is how close one can get to the animal before it begins to back away. Unless the animal is completely tame and has no fear of humans, there will be a flight zone.
• Pressure and release: Pressure and release works with the concept of flight zone in handling animals. Stepping within the flight zone of an animal pressures it to move. Stepping back outside of the flight zone releases pressure. The animal feels safer and it stops moving. Constant pressure inside the flight zone can, in some cases, cause the herd to run. Using pressure and release keeps the herd calmer and allows movement to become more directed and purposeful.
• Point of balance: Point of balance uses the concepts of flight zone and pressure and release to direct cattle movement. “Experiment with your animals to determine exactly where it is,” said Lewandowski. “If a handler enters the animal’s flight zone from an angle behind the point of balance, the animal will move forward. If the handler enters the animal’s flight zone from an angle in front of the point of balance, the animal will move backward.”
• Noise reduction: Cattle are more sensitive to noise than people. Loud noises excite animals and flight zones can increase. “Good livestock handlers are very quiet, seldom speaking when they work with livestock,” said Lewandowski.
• Livestock vision: Livestock see differently than people do. Cattle, for example, have a blind spot directly behind their head, yet see very well from the sides of their head. In addition, cattle have poor depth perception. “While people have 140-degree vertical vision, cattle have only about a 60-degree vertical vision,” said Lewandowski. “This means they can’t see what is directly below their head when their head is up.”
• Speed of movement: Moving fast and trying to speed up the handling process, or making cattle move faster is a losing battle. “In most cases, cattle speed is slower than our speed but moving at their speed will get the job done faster,” said Lewandowski.
The animal handling principles that will be demonstrated can be applied to not only beef and dairy cattle, but also to sheep, goats, swine and other livestock.
“We will discuss and demonstrate low-stress methods of moving a group of cattle, and working a group of cattle, including sorting in a handling system and loading into a trailer,” said Lewandowski. “The objective is to offer a hands-on learning experience of methods that work and methods that don’t.”
For more information, contact Rory Lewandowski at 740-593-8555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.