This good practice addresses a priority topic of Production Efficiency and Meat Quality thematic area from BovINE. To ensure high meat quality, a reduction of stress in beef cattle is necessary. Therefore it’s very useful to reduce the influence of stress on a daily basis when handling the animals. Driving cattle in a low stress manner was implemented on a beef cattle farm in Hessen, Germany. The mixed herd of roundabout 50 Limousin and Simmental cows and their heifers are held on pasture during the summer and housed on straw bedding with a corral in winter.
The farmer completed several courses covering a method called Low Stress Stockmanship (LSS). This method originates in the USA. The theoretical basis of this method is a profound understanding of behaviour and body language of cattle. This knowledge is used to handle and drive single animals or even big herds in the desired direction without causing any stress to the animals. Avoiding rapid movement, shouting or using sticks to drive the animals saves a lot of time and work as the animals don’t get agitated and move to the desired direction much calmer and quicker. A positive side effect is a reduced risk of accident as the animals are much calmer. To really master this technique it takes a serious investment of time and also money to complete the courses. After that a lot of rehearsal and growing experience is required to apply the method correctly. But once the LSS is implemented and the farmer got used to it the LSS comes in very handy for driving the herd from one piece of pasture to another, to separate single animals from the herd, to drive animals into a carriage for transportation or to get animal to enter a stand for veterinary examination.
The good practice of LSS significantly reduces stress while handling or driving cattle. Especially when it comes to loading the animals for transportation to drive them to the slaughterhouse a lot of stress can be avoided. Stress verifiably reduces meat quality so by reducing stress in these moments the meat quality can be improved. Good meat quality also positively affects beef image and therefore socio-economic resilience. The good practice also refers to animal health and welfare as high stress levels also have a negative impact on animal immune system. The time and money investments necessary to learn the method of LSS are quickly matched by the saving of time, money, stress and reduced risks of accidents while handling beef cattle.