News / Blog

Dairy Farmers Handling 1400 Pound Animals- Not a Job for Everyone
May 9, 2016

Moving and handling 1400-pound animals is not a job for everyone – it is however, one that dairy farmers do every day.

Across the Midwest large dairy cattle are moved to and from the parlor several times each day.  Also, when sows weighing 300 to 400 pounds are placed in group pens, human caretakers are potentially at risk for injuries. Unfortunately, livestock-related injuries account for a high rate of lost work days.

People are a major source of anxiety for the cow or the pig. Stressed cattle and pigs are more difficult to handle and this puts workers at an increased risk of accidents.  Much of an animal’s anxiety comes from how they are handled.  Studies have shown cows handled by an aversive handler had reduced milk efficiency compared to cows with gentle handlers. Animals quickly learn to recognize individuals and can distinguish between those who treat them gently and those who do not.

Knowing livestock behavior is the key to good stockmanship.

Low-stress animal handling or stockmanship focuses on the handling interactions (i.e. communication) between humans and cows and includes low-stress handling techniques. Stockmanship takes advantage of the basic, natural movements of livestock and is a method for humans to interact with these animals in a way that they understand.  Knowing livestock behavior is the key to good stockmanship. For example, a calm and relaxed cow at milking means minimal defecation and kicking in the milking parlor, and improved milk let-down.  Farmers using low stress animal handling methods are less likely to be injured and face fewer challenges moving cattle.

Dairy Stockmanship Resources

To help farmers, the UMASH group has developed a series of videos and fact sheets in English and Spanish for working with dairy cattle.  Our current research is attempting to measure the number of injuries due to animal contact with the hope of reducing those injuries with a trained work force familiar with low stress animal handling.

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