Low stress cattle handling

How to achieve low-stress cattle handling

There are many benefits to low-stress cattle handling for farmers. Not only does it ensure the health and wellbeing of the animal, but it also leads to higher weight gains, conception rates, milk yields and even less susceptibility to disease. By achieving low-stress cattle handling both the farmer and the animal are rewarded. Livestock become stressed when something in its environment causes their control mechanisms to become overtaxed and thereby, no longer working effectively or efficiently.

So how can we avoid ‘stressors’ and ensure the livestock’s health? Here we break down 5 ways to achieve low-stress cattle handling.

  1. Make the first experience a positive one

Research shows that livestock who are fearful of people are more stressed. This fear can only be reduced if the interaction between the animal and a person is not an unpleasant one. Therefore, the first handling experience is essential for cattle behaviour over time. A positive and low-stress first handling experience will make livestock easier to work with. The greater the unpleasant experience, the stronger the memory and reluctance to even enter the yard becomes. The rules still applies for farmers who don’t have cattle from birth to slaughter. Your first experience with any mob of cattle determines the relationship you’re going to have with them.

  1. Acclimate cattle after a transition

Once you have acquired the cattle at your property, take the time to let the cattle acclimate for the next few days in the same location. A new environment is a great stressor, particularly for recently transported cattle. When cattle haven’t learnt what a new environment holds, it only increases their fear and potential pain. Build trust from day one.

  1. Apply pressure. Properly.

Understand yard techniques (pressure zone, flight zone) to control movement and lead them comfortably and correctly. Always have an experienced handler who understands how their position, posture and movement will influence cattle direction. Never have inexperienced dogs in the yards, particularly with a mob that has just transitioned and is already experiencing heightened stress.

  1. Limit Noise

No one likes to be yelled at and cattle are the same. Eliminate loud noises and use a calm, cool approach. Being forceful and reactive will only increase the livestock’s stress (and your own).

  1. Keep control

Cool and calm doesn’t imply that the animal has control. Animals that are handled quietly and calmly on a regular basis learn that the handler won’t pressure so hard as to produce fear and panic. Effective handlers are able to handle even the unruliest of mobs without any self-induced stress.


Cattle handling doesn’t have to be stressful for either the animal or handler. Using the right equipment, techniques and yard design are effective ways to minimise stress. Talk to us today about how you can achieve low-stress cattle handling.