Good stockmanship matters with quiet cattle gaining more weight and safer to handle.
That was the key message from leading United States animal scientist and autism advocate, Temple Grandin, who visited the Upper South East last week.
Since her first trip to Australia nearly 40 years ago she said livestock handling and yard design had greatly improved, with many producers incorporating her curved raceways.
The Colorado State University professor said cattle had a natural tendency to go back to where they came from so it was important to have a race with two full half circles.
Her preferred dimensions for good flow were two, five-metre radius, half circles and a crowd pen with a 3.5m radius.
“A common mistake is to bend the raceway too sharp,” she said.
“When the animal gets to the entrance it must see two body lengths ahead to see there is a place to go.”
Prof Grandin said good cattle handling required those working in the yards to walk more rather than pushing too many animals up to the crowd pen (holding pen) at once.
“Find out what small group works and stick to it,” she said.
“Most of the time if you shut the gate they will go in if you have enough room for them and you will be able to stay off the catwalk but if it is full they will turn around and back out.”
Prof Grandin also spoke about how to enter an animal’s flight zone to get it to move.
“A handy trick to get them into the squeeze chute is to step forward and quickly walk back along their side in the opposite direction of desired movement.”
“The big mistake people make is to stand at the head of the animal and poke the butt,” she said.
To understand animals she said humans had to get away from words.
“It is all about what they see – they remember in pictures.”
Ms Grandin had high praise for the facilities at SA’s largest beef feedlot, Iranda Beef at Tintinara which recently expanded to 15,000 standard cattle units.
A training session was held with the staff during her visit.
Iranda Beef feedlot operations manager Tom Green said good animal handling was in everyone’s best interests.
“The grainfed beef industry in Australia is a leader and progressive in keeping on top of any animal welfare issues and it will continue to be so,” he said.
“A healthy and well looked after animal is going to be a profitable one.”
Tintinara Regional Area Development Enterprises president Deanna Dunbar said the response to the gala lunch and autism and livestock handling workshops had been overwhelming.
About 800 meals were catered over four days.
She said the volunteer organisation had wanted to showcase the region’s benefits.
“We are not isolated and our kids have a wonderful future here,” Ms Dunbar said.
“We all believe in farming and wanted to get the message out that there is a future in agriculture.”