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Temple Grandin’s Response to Analysis of Her Handling Facilities Design

By   /  June 16, 2014  /  4 Comments

Dr. Temple Grandin shares her thoughts about the Stockmanship Journal’s analysis of her handling facilities design.

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Editors Note: Over the past few weeks we have been sharing excerpts from Stockmanship Journal’s article “Grandin’s Approach to Facilities and Animal Handling: An Analysis” (Volume 3 Issue 1). (Click to read Part 1Part 2,  Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6 ).  The authors, Whit Hibbard and Dr. Lynn Locatelli, are both practitioners and teachers of the Bud Williams school of stockmanship and are well known for helping feedlots and ranches improve their operations through Low-Stress Livestock Handling education. 

StockmanshipJournalCoverIn their article they look at the handling facilities designed by Temple Grandin, and compare it to their experiences with good stockmanship and animal behavior.  What they found is that Grandin designed facilities tend to impede animal movement, and that good stockmanship and simple, inexpensive handling facilities work best if you are not operating an abattoir. 

The purpose of the authors’ analysis is to encourage an exchange of ideas while analyzing, evaluating and critiquing theories and ideas in a search for better outcomes for animal handlers.   They want to help answer the questions they’ve often been asked:  “What kind of animal handling facilities should we build? Solid-sided, curved, tub systems, like those promoted by Temple Grandin can be expensive, but is that our best option?  Or are there are other ways to get us where we want to be?”

This is groundbreaking analysis and On Pasture is honored to be selected to share the article and Dr. Grandin’s response.  

Part 7: Dr. Temple Grandin Responds

Note  from Stockmanship Journal Editor: Given that we share a common concern with Dr. Grandin for the welfare and proper handling of livestock, and given that we desire a mutually respectful and rewarding dialogue in which we articulate, discuss, and hopefully remedy some differences for the ultimate benefit of the industry and the animals, we sent Dr. Grandin a draft of our article for comment. This is her response.

Distractions

The first work I did in the early 1970s was observations of how cattle reacted to distractions. The handling on feedlots and ranches was rough and removing distractions improved movement. In meat packing plants, removal of distractions, such as reflections on shiny metal, hanging chains, and lighting a dark chute entrance, greatly improved cattle and pig movement. In packing plants, there is not enough time for a stock person to get the cattle accustomed to them. I agree that if a person has worked with his/her own cattle and developed a relationship with them, distractions become less important. Dairy cows that go into a milking parlor everyday will walk over and ignore distractions. Cattle handling has improved over the years, but at many places, removal of distractions will usually improve cattle movement.

Stockmanship

I agree with the authors on the need for people to learn better stock handling. I get very frustrated with many people who are not willing to spend time to learn low-stress methods. For 40 years, I have told people not to overload the crowd pen and many people still jam too many cattle in. This principle applies to all types of crowd pen designs. In too many places, employers overwork and understaff their operations to the point that people become too tired to do things right. To make change requires managers who are serious about animal welfare.

Solid versus Open Sides

I have changed some of my thinking on this. Recently in Australia, I did a demonstration with a curved chute that had a solid outer perimeter and an open inner side. This design is on p. 214 of the second printing of my book Humane Livestock Handling. To make this work, people have to stay back out of the flight zone until it is time to move the cattle. If handlers stand too close, the cattle will start to become agitated.

In packing plants and truck loading ramps, which have lots of vehicles and people moving around them, solid sides will help facilitate movement and make them work effectively. The pictures in the article shows facilities with open sides that are in a field with no big distractions, such as moving vehicles and extra people.

Curved versus Straight Chutes

We have differences of opinion on curved versus straight chutes. First of all, the design of a facility becomes less and less important after a rancher or stocker operator has spent time with his/her cattle practicing low-stress methods. One advantage of a curved single-file chute is that cattle entering the chute from the crowd pen cannot see people standing next to the squeeze chute. To promote following behavior, curved chutes MUST be laid out correctly so the animal can see a minimum of two or three body lengths up the chute when it is standing at the chute entrance. Cattle do move in a circle around a person. When cattle enter the single-file chute from a Bud Box, they circle around the handler who is standing in the Bud Box.

Length of Snake

The designs I have with very long snakes (single-file chutes) are for meat packing plants. In large packing plants, cattle move more quickly through the system compared to ranch handling. The chute length is required to provide handlers time to refill the crowd pen. My designs for ranches and feedlots have much shorter single-file chutes.

Reaction to Squeeze Chute

I agree that how cattle are handled BEFORE they get to the squeeze chute is very important. Cattle that are handled calmly before they get to the squeeze chute will be calmer in the squeeze. Unfortunately, I have observed cattle that were so badly treated in the squeeze chute that they absolutely refused to enter it in the future.

Point of Balance

In the second printing of Humane Livestock Handling, I modified the description on p. 36. I explain that when a person is up close to an animal in a chute, the point of balance is at the shoulder. When the person is further away, the point of balance may move forward.

Movement Patterns for Moving Cattle in Single-File Chutes

I am pleased that the authors liked my diagrams. These movement patterns are based on my own work in feedlots. Some people have criticized the use of diagrams because they do not work in all situations. I agree, but diagrams form a starting point that helps people to learn.

Round Crowd Pen versus Bud Box

Both systems will work and both systems MUST be laid out correctly. The Bud Box is economical to build but more skill dependent. It is easy for a skilled handler to use, but it would be likely to work poorly in places with high employee turnover and little training. A well-designed round crowd pen is more expensive but it requires less skill to use. Both designs MUST NEVER be overloaded. Good handling will require more walking to bring up smaller groups. I have a new design on www.grandin.com where catwalks are eliminated.

Conclusions

Everyone who is interested in cattle handling wants to improve how animals are treated. Unfortunately, a high percentage of people who work cattle are not willing to spend the time to adopt all the low-stress methods described by the authors. There are differences of opinion on methods to move cattle such as herding or leading. The most important thing is the outcome. The outcome should be calm orderly movement. When cattle are being moved between pastures, it is essential that there is controlled movement through gates to prevent young calves from getting separated from the cows.

Another factor that is affecting cattle handling is fifteen years of producers selecting for a calm temperament. Many research studies show that cattle that have a calmer temperament compared to their herdmates will gain more weight. Several breed associations have temperament EPD’s. Herds that have been selected for temperament will be easier to handle in less elaborate facilities. There may be differences of opinion on certain things, but everybody who is involved in improving how cattle are handled want to improve animal treatment. The cattle would benefit greatly if everybody who works in the field of low-stress handling would promote their practices in a positive manner.

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About the author

Whit is a fourth generation Montana rancher who spent aobut 38 years handling cattle conventionally before making the paradigm shift to low-stress livestock handling (LSLH) as taught by Bud Williams. For the past 10 years he has studied and practice LSLH, and shares his knowledge in clinics, onsite consultations, and articles. He began publishing the Stockmanship Journal in 2012. It is the definitive source for quality information on stockmanship. Though the importance of stockmanship is becoming well recognized, until this Journal, there was no professional publication addressing the subject. Hibbard began publishing the Journal in January of 2012 to provide a consistent and efficient way to share information on stockmanship, and to serve as a forum for open, intelligent and informed dialogue. The Journal is a means for improving the level of discourse and the discipline of stockmanship. It is published twice a year in electronic form and includes articles written by experts in the field.

4 Comments

  1. Chip Hines says:

    I congratulate Temple Grandin for her reasoned reply. Well done.

  2. Tom R. says:

    I’ve been a firm believer in low stress handling forever and have used an open sweep pen with a short curved lead-up to the squeeze for about 20 years. Being able to quietly limit the cows options lets you train them easily to work calmly. The one big advantage I see to the sweep is with wild cattle (Usually occasional strays from across the fence) and being able to load them out the side gate of the sweep while not needing to be in the pen with them. Thanks for a great analysis of the Bud Box system, I now understand how and why it works so well. Even though my sweep system would cost about $10,000 to replace today, I’m still glad I bought it both for safety and ease of use since I usually am working by myself.

  3. Many thanks to Drs. Locatelli & Grandin & Mr. Hibbard for this excellent series. We’ve learned lots and have already put some of this knowledge into practice at our farm. We will be seeking out more information on low-stress handling techniques.

  4. Don K. says:

    Both were excellent articles, and had some very good points. I utilize both the bud box and sweep with open sides all the way. Being a small operation it tends to work well for me. One thing I have discovered is, feeding them after working them calms them back down pretty quick.

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