Reduce Stress in Livestock
by Carol Delsman
Stress that livestock experience in handling does affect your trial and livestock workability. There are ways to reduce their stress during a herding event that will give your exhibitors a better chance to qualify.
Lessen visual disturbances
Livestock have wide-angle vision. Side walls and visual screening will help keep your livestock calm. This keeps livestock from seeing objects, people and dogs outside the pens and arenas. Sun reflection on objects, flags or tarps moving in the breeze or movement, can cause livestock to balk.
Cut back on Noise
Livestock are sensitive to noise. Unexpected loud noises can be highly stressful. Providing controlled amounts of continuous but varying background sound may help prevent stress. A radio at low volumes can block outside noise as long as animals are use to it.
Keep barking dogs away from the livestock. Stock dogs should also work quietly.
Use the Flight Zone
An important concept of livestock handling is flight zone -- the animal's personal space. When a person or dog enters the flight zone too deeply, the animal will either bolt or turn and run past the dog or stock handler. The best place for the dog and handler to work is on the edge of the flight zone. This will cause the animals to move away in an orderly manner, and they will stop moving when the handler retreats from the flight zone.
Understand Previous Handling Experiences
Animals remember painful or frightening experiences. They can readily discriminate between types of dogs as well as different dogs of the same breed. It is important to take into consideration where the stock came from and how they have been worked when deciding how to work a particular group of livestock.
Facility design can reduce stress in livestock. Groups of livestock that have individual pens lie down and rest between runs. They will often eat, drink and relax. Livestock in a pen situation also need to be protected from the weather. Cold, wet or hot conditions add to the stress of livestock and in extreme conditions can cause illness or death.
Reducing stress on livestock with make the whole trialing experience more enjoyable for livestock handlers and exhibitors alike.