The skillful, safe, effective and efficient handling of cows based on understanding cattle’s natural behavior is referred to as stockmanship. Stockmanship uses the key characteristics of a cow’s natural behavior in order to handle the animal in a low stress environment. This program tries to illustrate why cows do what they do and how they perceive the world. Better stockmanship skills results in moving cattle more effectively and more calmly around the farm.

Gentle, low stress handling will result in maximum productivity and minimum injuries when maneuvering cattle. Handlers should ensure a quiet, tranquil, stress-free environment where cattle are not overcrowded.

While cattle use all of their senses to perceive the world, their sensory perception is much different than humans. Considering the way dairy cattle see, smell, hear and taste can help dairymen successfully and effectively move cattle.

Cattle naturally demonstrate herding or packing behavior as animals of prey. Cattle herds have an established pecking order and like to follow in a line with a dominant leader. These types of behaviors are crucial in relation to sound dairy stockmanship.

The flight zone is the animal’s safety zone, and its size varies depending on the animal’s degree of tameness. Excited, agitated animals have a larger flight zone than calm animals.  By understanding the cow’s flight zone, handlers can successfully gage how to position their bodies in relation to the cow to safely and productively move cattle.

The point of balance is an imaginary line located around the cow’s shoulders. The handler’s location in relation to the point of balance determines whether the animal moves forward or backwards.

Moving closer into the cow’s flight zone can cause cattle to speed up as moving farther will encourage cattle to relax and slow down. Understanding where these pressure points are can be helpful when moving cattle in stressful situations.

It is important to always move softly and calmly around cattle. Knowing where to position your body around the cattle is a useful tool to keep both animal and handler safe.

Tools such as flags, paddles and sticks with ribbons attached are often successful aids in moving reluctant cattle. However, it is crucial to understand what techniques outline responsible and irresponsible use.