Low-Stress Cattle Loading

Simple ways to reduce loss and improve the efficiency of loading your livestock for transport.


 americancattleman.com - by Dana Charban

 


Loading cattle for transport is a high-stress situation. No matter how large or small your operation is, a proper load-out facility is an essential element of your handling system. A well-designed load-out will allow you to load cattle into the trailer efficiently while limiting the likelihood of injury and minimizing cattle stress. Here are five recommendations:


1. Choose the right kind of loading chute for your needs. A loading chute is one of the most important investments for your handling system, perhaps only second to your cattle chute. As such, there are a number of things to consider when looking at the loading chutes which are available. These key features include: - Sheeting height. The sides of your loading ramp should be sheeted to keep cattle moving into the trailer without distraction. Lower sheeting on-ramps may cause cattle to balk, and can dramatically increase stress. - Vision slot. This is an easily overlooked element that is very important to controlling cattle movement through the loading chute. A vision slot allows you to monitor cattle, and assist them in the trailer, as necessary. - Portable or Stationary. If you work cattle in multiple pastures, a portable loading ramp may be an effective solution for your needs. However, if you are always working cattle in the same system, a stationary loading ramp may prove to be a more cost-effective option.

2. Additional cattle handling equipment A load-out facility incorporates far more than just a loading chute and a trailer. For an effective load-out, you must also consider a cattle tub that is large enough to effectively fill your trailer, adjustable cattle alleys to keep cattle from turning back, anti-backing bars, sorting alleys, handler pass-through areas, and strategically placed alley gates to control cattle flow. These additional pieces are very important to cattle flow through your system as a whole, and can make-or-break the load-out experience for your livestock.

3. Flooring is essential – in the loading chute and the trailer. Cattle are very particular when it comes to flooring. To keep cattle moving efficiently, flooring that provides good traction when moving up or down the ramp will assist in keeping cattle calm as they enter or exit the truck. Additionally, flooring in the truck can also greatly minimize stress. Consider a loading chute with rib-checkered steel and rubber mats for the back of the truck, as they are known to provide cattle with the traction they need to walk confidently.

4. Remember the trailers you’re working with, and load them effectively. Not all livestock trailers are made equal. When transporting cattle, you want them to have enough space around and above them, but not too much. This is a delicate balance that requires consideration based on the number and size of the cattle you are transporting. Additionally, trailers come in many different heights, so it is important to create a load-out facility that can accommodate and work well with trailers of different heights.

5. Remember, stress can start long before cattle enter the handling facility. You can have the greatest load-out system and trailer in the world, but if your cattle are stressed out in the corrals, you have an uphill battle on your hands (pun intended). Low-stress cattle handling is important in every part of the ranch (or farm) and will help to keep your cattle docile when they are presented with more stressful situations. Simple and effective low-stress cattle handling practices include limiting noise, acclimating cattle to new locations and situations, applying pressure properly, and keeping control. BONUS TIP. Ensure that you line your trailer up properly when you back it into position. Offset trailers can lead to cattle injuries, bruising, and stress! Implementing low-stress animal handling techniques doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right information and equipment, optimizing your cattle handling operation can be simple!


10 Ways to Minimize Transport Bruises

1. Avoid mixing new groups of cattle together during transport.

2. Do not overload or under-load trucks with cattle.

3. Trucks should be tall enough that cattle do not hit their backs. They should have non-slip floors and bruise-free paneling.

4. Vehicles should be maintained for a smoother ride.

5. Drive with care. Roads that haven’t been maintained well or are uneven can lead to increased bruises. High speeds also increase bruising.

6. Avoid routes with multiple starts and stops.

7. Guillotine-type doors at the rear of a trailer can cause injury and bruising, especially in the back and rump zones.

8. Cattle should be loaded and unloaded using proper handling techniques.

9. Cattle in the doghouse portion of the trailer will have the most bruising. Avoid using this area if possible.

10. Unload cattle in a timely fashion, but don’t rush. The longer they wait in the truck, the more likely they are to be bruised. However, cattle that are unloaded too quickly are more likely to be injured in the process.


Arrowquip is proud to offer a lineup of products designed specifically around the principles of low-stress cattle handling. For more low-stress cattle handling practices and livestock management tips, visit arrowquip.com.


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