- Stockmanship is the art and science of properly handling cattle or other farm animals.
- Stay calm, quiet and avoid quick movements while handling cows.
- By using good stockmanship practices you can improve animal comfort, provide safety for people and animals, and improve your bottom line.
Handling livestock in a safe manner is crucial on any farm to prevent accidents, injuries and even death. Large livestock especially pose a threat to our safety. Safely handling livestock protects the animals as much as it protects the people handling them.
There are four basic principles of stockmanship:
- The animal wants to see you.
- The animal wants to go around you.
- The animal wants to be around other animals.
- The animal can only think of one thing at a time.
General stockmanship is a critical part of the safe transportation of animals. Remember when leading an animal, even though you have the halter, the animal is still in charge. Lead at a comfortable, normal pace for the animal.
Try not to pull on the animal as it can hurt their neck and will cause them to not cooperate. Avoid making any sudden movements or loud noises to prevent startling the animal. If you’re halter-breaking an animal for the show ring, remember they get tired too, so don’t overdo it.
When transporting animals, there are a lot of safety precautions to keep in mind. Carrying livestock is a difficult load for a truck to handle.
There are several steps you can take to ensure you and your animals arrive safely when you’re transporting them.
- Before loading livestock, step into the trailer and look for any hazards.
- These could include loose boards, protruding nails and any garbage.
- While in the trailer, also consider the floor. You may want to add bedding in order to prevent slipping.
- If possible, cover the trailer during inclement weather conditions.
- Ensure you are distributing weight evenly along the sides of the trailer.
- While on the road, make sure you don’t feel tired or fatigued.
- Be sure to pay attention on the road as moving livestock can shift the trailer’s balance.
- Be mindful that the driving will be a little slower than usual, so take your time.
- The most important aspect of moving cows is to remain calm and quiet.
- Yelling, loud noises, and fast movements are very stressful for cows.
- Calm cows are easier to move and it's safer for people and other animals when cows are not agitated or excited.
- Scared cows move in hurried and unpredictable ways. If they are moving quickly on wet or uneven surfaces, cows and handlers can slip, fall and be injured.
- When moving a cow, be aware of where you are standing in relation to the cow.
The point of balance on a cow is the shoulder
- To move the cow forward, position yourself behind her point of balance and move slowly at a 45 to 60 degree angle from the cow's shoulder. This allows you to stay in the her line of vision while moving her to where you want her to go.
- To move the cow backwards, move in front of the cow's shoulder or point of balance. She will either back up or turn around to move in the desired direction.
The pressure or flight zone is the cow’s personal space
- The size of a cow’s pressure or flight zone will vary depending upon how tame or calm the cow is.
- The pressure and flight zones get bigger if the cow becomes excited or if you approach the cow head on.
- If you are in a cow’s pressure zone she will turn, look at you and maintain a safe distance.
- When you enter her flight zone she will turn and move away from you.
Cows have a blind spot directly behind them
If you approach cows from their blind spot they may become easily excited and take off or kick at you.
Calm and low stress cows often produce more milk and, as a result, improve your bottom line.
- Calm cows are able to let their milk down in a more efficient manner.
- Keep cows calm. Don't yelled at them, chase them or lead them into buildings, such as a parlor, with loud noises from music or machinery.
First calf fresh heifers can be difficult to move the first time they go for milking.
- They can become scared because they have not been in the barn or through the parlor.
- They don't know what to do or where to go.
- Set them up for success.
- Streamline them right into the parlor and don't keep them in the holding pen too long.
- Stay calm, maintain your point of balance positions, and move them to where you want them to go.
Livestock safety videos
This series of videos provides information and tips on working with livestock safely. The first video covers stockmanship and livestock behavior. The second video discusses recognizing hazards and moving livestock. The third and final video is about personal and farm safety.
The information shared in these videos is applicable to any species of livestock and is a great introduction or refresher for farmers of all ages.
Reviewed in 2021