We continue with our cattle handling tips, giving you valuable information on animal behavior. In our previous blogs, we have discussed the importance of stress free cattle handling and understanding cattle behavior for leading cattle in pasture &rotational grazing safely. This article will specifically focus on handing cattle, sheep, pigs and other herding animals using their “follow the leader” instincts. As discussed earlier, when you have a herd of animals that are new to your farm, you will have to spend some time with them to get yourself acquainted with the animals. Once you understand their behavior, it will become easier for you to handle them safely and in a stress free manner. We have also talked about using the flight zone principles to control animal movements. Now, here are some tips on how to use “follow the leader instinct” to Improve animal handling.
Follow the leader instinct of animals
Herding animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs have a natural instinct to follow the leader of the herd. They have a strong instinct to follow the animal in front of them. If the leader decides to go somewhere, the rest of the herd will usually follow, even if the decision was a bad one. For example, if the leader sheep jumps off a cliff, the rest of the herd will also follow. This instinct is in them by birth; they are conditioned to follow the lead of older animals in a flock without thinking about what they are doing.
“Follow the leader”instincts are strong in flocking animals in a herd. Animals with a higher level of intelligence and those who dominate a conflict situation will usually become the leader of the herd. An animal taking this role is called a “control animal”, and behavior of this animal will determine the behavior of the herd as a whole.
Using animals’ “follow the leader” instinct
Animal handlers can easily take advantage of this natural “Follow the Leader” instinct of animals and move animals in and out of the chute (race). Animals will move more easily if there is enough space in the chute to take advantage of this of following behavior. An animal handler will usually find that it is a lot easier keeping up with the line in a large ranch, slaughter plant, or feedlot, once the handler learns to use this method, as animals will move right up the chute as they enter the crowd pen.
It’s recommended that you never fill your crowd pen more than half of its capacity. Overloading the crowd pen will make it difficult for animals to turn. The crowd pen works most efficiently when used as a “pass through” pen so that the animals can enter the single file race immediately.
The crowd gate should never be used to push the animals forcibly, and so the handler must be careful not to push the crowd gate up too tightly.The handler should not try to push the animals from the rear of the group; instead, he should concentrate on moving the leaders into the chute. Special care should be taken when your crowd pen has a mechanical gate.
Powered gates should never knock animals over or drag an animal which is knocked down on the ground. All automatic doors should be equipped with controls that the handlers can stop movement if needed.
If you have a one-way or sliding gate at the entrance of the single file chute, make sure that it’s open when animals are brought into the crowd pen, or animals will balk at a closed gate. One-way flapper gates can be equipped with remote control or a rope to open them remotely from the crowd pen, or animals might get stuck at the closed gate.
Domestic animal herds are easier to control and may act differently than the wild herd of the same species of animals, due to their history and composition. Humans can easily control the herd by placing a control animal as the leader of the herd, and only need a ribbon and stick to turn and guide the animals in the desired direction. Cattle move more easily if small bunches of animals are moved in the pen without overcrowding it.
Most cattle will move easily when enough room is given, and the pen gate should not be used for pushing animals. Some stubborn animals might need to be separated and treated differently from the rest of the herd.
This is a stress free way of moving cattle in and out of the chute (race). Avoid yelling and waving. The stick with ribbon should only be used to guide animals gently. Animals will stop moving into the crowd pen if they see something ahead of them.
We will return with more tips on animal handing in our next blog, so keep reading our blogs. Also please add your comments below and let us know if you’re finding our tips useful.