The herds of dairy cattle are getting bigger and bigger and husbandry is becoming more and more extensive. As a result, there are more problems in handling the cattle. This becomes particularly obvious when, for example, the animals have to be taken into the hoof stand and you have to work directly on the animal. We are here on the first organic cattle day at Burgrain. Philipp Wenz presents his method “Low Stress Stockmanship” in order to counteract those issues. Stress-free handling of cattle – the “Low Stress Stockmanship” method Low Stress Stockmanship is a method that was developed in the USA for driving cattle. No beckoning, no using your hands, no calling, no flailing. It’s about position and movement. Proximity and distance. An essential aspect of the work is letting the animals learn. And learning happens through reducing pressure. That means every time the animal reacts, I reduce pressure. I orientate myself on the reactions of the animals and I basically differentiate between 3 reactions: The animal is not responding, which means I’m too far away and in the neutral zone. There’s an area where the animal looks at me,
this is the observation zone. And if I keep approaching the animal, I get to the point where the animal reacts. Then I’m in the reaction zone. And this reaction zone as well as the other zones can vary in size. For shy animals they are large, with tame animals they are very small. This is the basis of this method. And now I’m going to demonstrate. Now I’m to the right of the animal and she looks to the right. When I go to her left side, she turns her head to the left to see me. Now I increase the pressure. What is important is that she sees me. Even though I approached her behind, but because she had her head to the side, she saw me. Now she’s looking. I’ll give her some time to find her bearings so she can get into the narrow pass. She still examines everything, looking for the cable drum. Now I want some movement… again….First the right direction… If she looks in the right direction, especially when I’ve put a lot of pressure on her, I take the pressure off very clearly. If she sniffs, it’s all right. Her weight and her leg position indicate a forward direction. The hoof stand is now still completely open, so she can easily walk through. The learning effect is not judged by how long it takes the first time, but how long it takes the next time. So I’m going to go through it again with her right now. She wants to be able to see me. She looks to the right. I’m going to the left side. She looks to the left. And she’s making a left turn. With the eye with which she sees me, she also sees the direction in which she should walk. Now she responds, and as soon as she does, I reduce the pressure. Now I caught the wrong eye. She needs to pass through it… OK. As you can see: the animals learn, which means: next time it will be easier, better and faster. Even if I become more assertive towards an animal that doesn’t know yet what to do with the pressure, namely to move away, then I increase the pressure so that she’ll understand. It will take less pressure next time. There is such a thing as a spiral of violence, which could lead to electric prods and similar things. But if you go into the opposite direction, there is a spiral of sensitivity, a very delicate interaction between humans and animals. It is enjoyable and the animals appreciate it very much. The animals are never too old to learn something new, to go in a new direction. The learning progress is not limited by the animal, but usually by the owner. He’s a far stronger creature of habit than the cattle. If you are interested in this method, you can download the FiBL leaflet “Successful cattle handling” (link below in the video description) Here the “Low Stress Stockmanship” method is described in detail.