Sunrise at the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Ranch. Credit: J. Darrington
'Low Stress for Safety and Success' Workshop
March 16th was a beautiful day for the “Low Stress for Safety and Success” workshop hosted at the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Ranch. “We are grateful to the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Ranch for hosting us. We appreciate them allowing us to work with their cow herd and experience their handling facilities,” said Heidi Carroll, SDSU Extension Livestock Stewardship Associate. Heidi Carroll and her colleagues Julie Walker, SDSU Extension Beef Specialist, and Joe Darrington (former SDSU Extension Livestock Environment Associate) organized three workshops around South Dakota. This workshop was the final producer workshop of the North Central Extension Risk Management grant-funded project.
Presentations & Discussion
Like the previous two producer workshops, the day focused on learning cattle handling techniques, evaluating handling facilities, and understanding the impacts of handling on beef quality to ensure both human and cattle safety. Nineteen attendees representing cattlemen from South Dakota and Nebraska, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff, and Tribe members participated in the day’s events. A morning presentation by Mrs. Carroll discussed human-cattle interactions and provided video clips demonstrating cattle handling principles. The benefits of proper handling were also contrasted with the potential negative impacts that stressful handling can have on cattle and the resulting beef quality. In the afternoon, Dr. Amanda Blair, SDSU Extension Meat Science Specialist, provided examples of the types of carcass discounts that can result from poor handling and in-depth discussion expanded from attendee questions. After the morning presentation, the participants were split into two groups for the hands-on activities.
The facility evaluation activities led by Dr. Darrington engaged participants to use a checklist of critical areas to inspect several brands of portable chutes and corrals in addition to the permanent ranch facilities for both handler and cattle safety, and readiness to work cattle. These hands-on facility activities equipped participants for the most important part of working cattle safely: preparing and maintenance of the facilities before cattle are ever gathered. The portable equipment was provided by local equipment dealer sponsors Seymour Cow Care – Titan West, Inc. and Lakeside Livestock Equipment Sales. This checklist is one tool that cattlemen can use at home as they prepare to work cattle and consider improving their handling facilities.
Heidi Carroll started the cattle activities with demonstrations of calmly bringing cows out of a holding pen into a sort alley, and individually sorting them back to the pen. Participants had the opportunity to practice their low-stress handling techniques by doing these same tasks. These initial tasks helped participants observe the cattle behavior in response to their own body position and “read” how the cattle responded to pressure. Next, participants brought the cows through the facility for insecticide application for parasite and lice control, as well as brand inspection for individual animal identification records. Participants volunteered for a position and rotated to other positions within the facility to practice their skills. As everyone was working on the task, Mrs. Carroll provided guidance on adjusting techniques or changing body position to maintain safe, efficient cattle flow. The key to effective low-stress cattle handling is proper pressure at the right time.
Beef Quality Assurance Certification
As part of this workshop, the Tribal Ranch Board requested a Beef Quality Assurance Certification training be included in the agenda. All participants completed the required steps to become Beef Quality Assurance Certified. This certification shows their dedication to caring for cattle humanely and producing safe beef for consumers.
The “Low Stress for Safety & Success” workshop provided attendees with the opportunity to learn or brush up on cattle handling techniques, see multiple facilities, and most importantly implement low-stress techniques in a supportive environment with constructive feedback. Participants stated the most significant things they learned were:
- “Patience is most important to handling cattle and how stress can affect the meat.”
- “Fast is not necessarily the quickest sometimes!”
- “Meat production and quality.”
- “Facility and equipment checklist, low stress cattle handling and BQA (VCPR) with feed additive. I liked the topic on SOPs - never gave it much thought before.”
A huge THANK YOU to the generous sponsors for this workshop: Elanco, Seymour Cow Care – Titan West Inc., and Lakeside Livestock Equipment Sales. And a big THANK YOU to the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Ranch for hosting the workshop and providing the delicious meal!