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Keep Calm and Moo-ve On – Cattle Handling Methods and Facilities

By Alicia Sopatyk, BSA, PAg., Regional Livestock Specialist, Tisdale Regional Services Branch

January 2018

Whether it’s vaccinating, processing or moving cattle from one quarter to another, handling cattle safely and efficiently requires proper facilities and methods.

Cattle are natural prey animals and therefore have a strong fight-or-flight response. If they’re handled calmly, they’ll be more likely to go back to the feed bunk sooner resulting in better performance. First and foremost, your livestock need to be familiar with you and whoever may be helping you handle them. It’s about putting the right amount of pressure on the animal to move them but knowing when to back off. The flight zone can be used to our advantage when handling cattle, however, staying calm is the key to success. Going into calving, we also can’t forget about maternal instincts; anticipate aggression and always have an exit plan.

Stockmanship experts like Curt Pate can teach us a lot in terms of handling our livestock and designing facilities, even when we think we’ve got it cased. If you’re interested in learning more, join us at the Saskatchewan Ranch Management Forum in Moose Jaw from February 9 to11, 2018, and hear Curt Pate speak about cattle handling facilities and stockmanship. This event boasts an informative agenda with topics ranging from nutrition and water quality to marketing, taxes and succession planning. For more information or to register for this event, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

Facilities are the next part of the equation. There are many different manufacturers but the important point is to select a system that will work for you to adequately restrain your livestock in a safe and efficient manner. This also includes penning and paneling, leading up to the sorting tub/chute area. Technology and fresh perspectives are continuing to bring advancements to handling equipment not only to improve safety, but to improve efficiency, too. One example is a head-catch attachment that cups the head of the cow against another bar in order to restrain her head. This eliminates the need for halters and pinched fingers!

Upgrading may cost money, but it can be totally worthwhile when it comes to handler safety and time. The Saskatchewan Verified Beef Production (VBP) Plus Program offers a 50 per cent rebate to a maximum of $750 per producer or 50 per cent up to $2,000 per VBP registered producer on eligible equipment such as chute neck extenders, livestock weigh scales and record keeping software. Visit the Verified Beef Production website for additional information. The deadline to apply is January 21, 2018.

For more information on this topic or anything else related to agriculture, contact the Tisdale Regional Office at 306-878-8842 or visit

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