I just received a phone call from a very good friend who lives in Australia. He is one of the best stockmen I have ever known. He had been to a field day that was put on by a Professor of Animal Science from a U. S. University. This person was explaining about “Modern Methods of Livestock Handling that Improve Animal Welfare and Productivity.” My friend said he had to wait for a while before calling since he could not believe what the person was saying and he wanted to calm down a little bit before talking to me. He said some of the comments that were made, if they were followed “would set the cattle industry in Australia back at least 100 years.”
There were also comments made about the scoring system for assessing livestock handling and yard design. This caused my friend to ask “does this person know anything about working livestock?
This got me to thinking that maybe something should be said about some of these things. It might be good if people that actually really understand working livestock got more involved. Just recently there are some people that design and build working corrals that understand something about how they should be built. These people are making some changes that make the corrals more animal friendly. What we need is more knowledge in this area.
For many years corrals have been built to make it so animals can be forced to go where we want them to go. In order to do this they use curves, solid sides, and crowd gates. But since this corral design was not animal friendly to start with, any thing that is added is just “something added.”
If we really want to improve animal welfare and productivity then the corral designs that are being used today will have to be slowly fazed out. The reason for slowly is that the design and thought process must be completely changed.
Corrals should be animal friendly all the way, not just adding something to try to fix a problem. Then the people should be taught how to work animals properly, before the animals get to the corral then all the way through the system, not just force them.
It is easy to work animals through a system if they are worked properly and the facility is built right. It also takes less time and is easy on the animals. This is what improves animal welfare and increases productivity.
Very few people would be able to teach better livestock handling. At this time there are only a few people who are willing to spend the time to learn how to work animals better. There are a few who are showing some interest, some that are looking at what it might be, and then there are a whole lot who have very little interest.
We really need something that will get more people interested in this before they are forced to. There are certain responsibilities that a person, who is in charge of animals must be sure is taken care of. The animal needs proper feed, water, room to exercise, and worked in such a way that no damage is done to the animal physically or emotionally. If damage is done, then the person must know how to undo this damage and get the animal back to normal as soon as possible.
We have people that are moving into positions of power now that are going to force some of these things. The livestock industry had better start getting prepared for these changes whatever they may be. Since the industry has not been willing to make these changes on it’s own, there will be no way to know what changes will be forced. We don’t know if they will be good or bad. We don’t know if we have the skill to even make them work.
If we really wanted to develop an objective scoring system for assessing livestock handling there are some things that would have to be done first. The people working animals would have to know or learn how to work livestock at the very best that is known today. This would need to be all the way through the system from cow/calf to the packer. Then facilities would need to be built or changed to be animal friendly. At this time very few if any animals are worked properly at every stage of the system. Also, very few facilities are built in such a way that animals can be worked properly.
To have a score that means anything, a lot of work needs to be done. Are we up to the task at hand or do we wait untill something forces us to make changes?