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Handling Systems: Chutes and Corrals

Handling Systems: Chutes and Corrals

Appropriate handling systems improve safety for workers and livestock. It allows for appropriate sorting and grouping for feeding, medical treatments, loading and transporting. The lower stress also improves quality of life for livestock and ultimately improves the meat texture and flavor. Handling systems must be designed and operated so they:

Remember:

Harsh Contrasts: Livestock do not easily walk into dark spaces. This is because grazing animals exhibit dichromatism meaning they are sensitive to harsh contrasts between light and dark colors. Dichromatism sight enhances night vision and helps the grazing animal detect motion, but can cause stalls in handling systems. They may refuse to walk over a shadow or step onto a concrete or steel floor from a dirt floor. The high contrast of the color change to the floor or a sharp shadow may alarm them especially if in an unfamiliar location. Loading into a trailer might be difficult until the lead animal figures out that the floor is safe.

Livestock may see dark shadows as “holes”. Likewise bright sunlight patterns may be visually confusing and startle or appear as barriers. Check for perceived obstructions. Livestock should have a clear, unobstructed view towards where they are meant to move. Livestock move better if they follow their known route. Entrances to sheds, loading ramps and working chutes should be placed near the route cattle and sheep normally take. They should move fluidly. If they more erratically or hesitantly they are stressed or confused and may panic. Impose as few changes as possible to their normal routine.

Importance of curves: Handling systems are important in gathering, feeding, and holding areas. Well-designed working and sorting chutes are key to reducing stress on livestock. There are basic details animal behaviorists have identified such as using curves. A curved handling system works on the principle that livestock always prefer to return to where they came from. Sheep and cattle in a wide curved lane will move more willingly towards a crowd pen. From the crowd pen they then move single file into a narrow into a chute towards the treatment or sorting chute. More information can be found on Temple Grandin’s Livestock Handling Systems website.

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