Tips for Low Stress Cattle Handling

Cattle handling is one of the most important skills in the dairy and beef industry. It has a significant impact on the well-being and productivity of the cattle, as well as on the safety and productivity of the workers.

Cattle Handling

    What is low stress cattle handling?

    LSCH stands for “Low Stress Cattle Handling.” It’s a way of working with cattle where fear and stress are minimized, and the cattle behave in a calm and cooperative manner.

    LSCH is based on the idea that the best way to work with cattle is to understand their natural behavior and instincts, and use that knowledge to effectively communicate with them.

    In this article, we’ll cover some of the basics of low stress cattle handling, as well as some tips.


    Cattle are prey animals that find safety in numbers. They have a strong herd instinct and prefer to stay close to their companions. They also have a flight zone, which is the area around them that they will defend from perceived threats. The size of the flight zone depends on the temperament and experience of the animal, as well as the environment and the handler. 

    When a handler enters the flight zone, the animal will move away. When the handler leaves the flight zone, the animal will stop. The handler can use this principle to control the movement and direction of the animal by applying and releasing pressure.

    Read also: Cattle Farming

    Cattle also have a point of balance, which is usually at the shoulder. When the handler is behind the point of balance, the animal will move forward. When the handler is in front of the point of balance, the animal will move backward or turn away. The handler can use this principle to start and stop the animal by changing their position relative to the point of balance.

    Cattle have a wide-angle vision, which allows them to see up to 300 degrees around themselves. However, they have poor depth perception and limited vertical vision. They also have a blind spot behind them, where they cannot see anything. Cattle are curious but cautious of new things, and will avoid anything that looks unfamiliar or threatening. They are also sensitive to noise, especially loud or sudden sounds. Cattle rely more on vision than smell, but they do have a keen sense of smell and can detect odors from far away.


    The first step in low stress cattle handling is to approach the animals calmly and quietly. Do not approach cattle from directly in front or directly behind, as this will make them nervous or defensive. Instead, approach them from the side, at an angle, and in their line of sight. Avoid sudden movements, loud noises, or aggressive gestures, as these will trigger fear and stress. Speak softly and gently, and use consistent signals and commands. If possible, use the same handlers and routines for the same animals, as this will help them to recognize and trust you.


    The second step in low stress cattle handling is to apply and release pressure to move and direct the animals. Pressure can be physical, such as touching or nudging, or psychological, such as eye contact or body language. The key is to use the right amount of pressure at the right time and place, and to release it as soon as the animal responds. Too much pressure will cause panic and resistance, while too little pressure will cause confusion and hesitation. The goal is to use the minimum amount of pressure necessary to achieve the desired response.

    To apply pressure, enter the flight zone of the animal and move toward the point of balance. To release pressure, leave the flight zone or move away from the point of balance. To start movement, position yourself behind the point of balance and move forward. To stop movement, position yourself in front of the point of balance and move backward. To change direction, position yourself on the opposite side of the desired direction and move across. To speed up or slow down, increase or decrease the pressure accordingly.


    The third step in low stress cattle handling is to muster the animals into loose groups. This means to gather them from the pasture or pen and move them toward the desired location, such as the yards or the loading ramp. The best way to muster cattle is to use their natural herd instinct and follow their lead. Do not chase or rush them, as this will cause stress and disorder. 

    Instead, let them walk at their own pace and keep them together as a group. Use the pressure and release technique to guide them along the way, and avoid splitting or separating them. If possible, use familiar routes and landmarks, and avoid obstacles and distractions.


    The fourth step in low stress cattle handling is to handle the animals in the yards or the chute. This means to perform various tasks, such as weighing, tagging, vaccinating, or loading. The best way to handle cattle is to use their natural curiosity and reward them for cooperation. Do not force or push them, as this will cause fear and resistance. Instead, let them explore and enter the facilities voluntarily. Use the pressure and release technique to encourage them along the way, and avoid stopping or blocking them. If possible, use well-designed and maintained facilities, and provide incentives, such as water, shade, or feed.


    Low stress cattle handling has many benefits for both the animals and the people involved. For the animals, LSCH reduces fear and stress, which improves their welfare and health. It also enhances their performance and productivity, as it lowers their heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol level, and weight loss. For the people, LSCH increases safety and efficiency, as it reduces the risk of injury and damage. It also improves the quality and profitability of the product, as it decreases the incidence of bruising, dark cutting, and poor grading. Furthermore, LSCH promotes a positive public image, as it demonstrates respect and care for the animals.


    Low stress cattle handling is a skill that can be learned and practiced by anyone who works with cattle. It is based on understanding the behavior and instincts of cattle, and using that knowledge to communicate with them effectively. By applying some basic principles and tips, LSCH can make cattle handling a pleasant and rewarding experience for both the animals and the people.

    Reference & Resources

    (1) Low stress cattle handling principles - FutureBeef

    (2) Low-stress Cattle Handling: The Basics - College of Agriculture and ...

    (3) Low-Stress Cattle Handling - Princess Royal.

    (4) Simple Low Stress Handling Principles - American Dairymen

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