Stress And Beef Cattle
You’re Stressing Me Out! Keep Your Beef Cattle
Just like humans, beef cattle can have negative emotional reactions to a host of things
they encounter and activities they undertake or must be put through on a daily basis.
If your cattle respond negatively emotionally to a person or event, it will increase
the likely hood of a host of negative effects on the cow itself and, in turn, the success of your operation.
Making your cattle accustomed to the environment and, especially, the people on your
ranch is an important step that must be undertaken early and thought of often when raising a herd or a few
An animal’s first impression with people, places and things can be the key to
keeping your cattle stress free and healthy. You need take whatever steps necessary to make sure their first
encounter with their environment and people are as pleasant as possible. Take extra care to ensure their first
experience is the best, from even the smallest step in their day to day life. The cow needs to become comfortable
with everything—from the people, the pen, the gates, the fences, the sights, the sounds, the corrals and the
This is especially important with new calves. Make sure a calf’s experiences in the
first few days of its lifetime are as stress free as possible. This will not only make the calf easier to manage,
but can help to ease his inherited temperament and have positive effects on the herd over time.
Lab studies have shown that cattle that become agitated and excited in the
squeeze chute have significantly lower weight gains, tougher meat, and more borderline dark cutters. Agitation and
excitement in the squeeze chute are influenced by both genetic factors and the animal's previous handling
experiences. Quiet handling is one easy way to avoid stressing the cattle, and this can be employed in almost every
step of the processes. Make sure noise is kept to a minimum, any approaches are made slowly and calmly. Avoid
restraint and other physical contact as much as possible.
You’re Freaking Me Out, Man!
Again, just like humans, if a cow’s first experience with someone or something
causes fear, they are more than likely to not only become agitated, but try and avoid the situation at all costs
the next time it occurs. There are tremendous detrimental effects of handling stressors on animal performance and
health associated with fear, and this directly affects your productivity. Be calm, cool and collected when handling
your animals at any stage, even when performing the simplest of tasks.
Cattle accustomed to people—on foot and on horseback—will produce calmer and easier to
handle cattle at the slaughter plant.
An animal's temperament is one determinant of how it will react during handling,
and this is determined by an interaction between genetic and environmental factors. In cattle, temperament is
highly influenced by genetics, so make sure you get a history of temperament and make close observations of
temperament when selecting cattle to purchase, bulls to breed, or replacements.
Cows may feel comfortable at home, but act excited and stubborn at new locations, such
as noisy auctions and other unfamiliar places.
New Places and Faces
New environments and people are a big factor in cattle stress levels. Sudden
movements, new and sudden changes or additions to the environment are all factors that can scare or stress the herd
or cattle. Previous studies have found that cattle will approach and even touch an object on the ground
voluntarily, but they will resist if someone attempts to drive them to it.
The Beef Cattle Chain