SDSU: Cattle handling and facilities workshop |

SDSU: Cattle handling and facilities workshop

The Low Stress for Safety and Success workshop hosted by SDSU Extension this October at the SDSU Cottonwood Range and Livestock Field Station near Philip was well attended by South Dakota cattle producers as well as FFA members.

“Everyone was eager to learn low-stress cattle handling techniques and discuss facility design and most importantly, they were eager to put the knowledge into action,” said Heidi Carroll, SDSU Extension Livestock Stewardship Associate.

Cattle Behavior & Low-Stress Handling

Workshop presenters explained how a better understanding of how cattle’s perception of their environment, as well as a handler’s body language, impacts cattle behavior.

“This is the foundation of low-stress handling,” explained Carroll. “During the workshop, we discussed how poor handling can negatively impact cattle health, performance, as well as a producer’s bottom line.”

Carroll further explained that each human who interacts with cattle – from birth to harvest – has the opportunity to positively impact the animal’s behavior and minimize the amount of stress it experiences during handling, ultimately raising the best quality beef possible.

Along with human-cattle interactions, the workshop focused on the impact handling facilities have on herd stress.

“Facility evaluation is a skill that can help producers improve animal flow-ability, limit costly facility breakdowns, and promote low stress interactions for both cattle and handlers,” said Joe Darrington, SDSU Extension Livestock Environment Associate.

Throughout the workshop, participants were able to examine the SDSU Cottonwood Range and Livestock Field Station permanent facilities as well as several brands of portable chutes and alleys provided for the day by local equipment dealer sponsors Cammack Ranch Supply and Lakeside Livestock Equipment Sales.

The workshop also gave participants the opportunity to put the skills they learned into practice by working cattle.

“Everyone had the opportunity to implement the techniques of using the point of balance and flight zone,” Carroll said.

Hands-on cattle handling activities included: emptying cattle from feedlot pens, moving through alleys, using a tub and hydraulic chute, and gathering calves from a small pasture. A bonus activity was learning how to place a CIDR (controlled internal drug release) in a cow for estrous synchronization.

Standard Operating Procedures Discussion

The day wrapped-up with a discussion on writing standard operating procedures for cattle management tasks.

“Many ranchers don’t believe that having written standard operating procedures for the tasks they perform is beneficial; however, standard operating procedures provide a set of directions for tasks to be done safely and consistently by all employees,” Carroll explained.

An example standard operating procedures for low-stress handling was provided to participants along with other resources for creating standard operating procedures on their own ranches.

“Standard operating procedures aren’t just paperwork, they are valuable documents that assist with training ranch employees or fill-in workers, communicate expectations of the quality of each task, and reduce the risk of injuries or failed procedures,” Carroll said.

Sponsors for the event included: Zoetis, Lakeside Livestock Equipment Sales, Cammack Ranch Supply, and First National Bank in Philip.

Funding for this project was provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture under Award Number 2015-49200-24226.

Save the Date

SDSU Extension will be holding more cattle handling workshops in 2017.

Beresford, February 24, 2017 at the SDSU Southeast Research Station (29974 University Road Beresford, SD 57004)

Another workshop is scheduled for spring 2017 near Mission. The date and location are yet to be determined.

To register for upcoming events, visit or contact Heidi Carroll at or 605.688.6623.

–SDSU Extension