Training staff to understand cow behavior could improve cow flow and welfare using simple techniques, said US cow behaviorist Paul Rapnicki of the University of Minnesota.

Speaking at the Large Herds Seminar, Gloucestershire, he advised the following:

  • Don’t stand immediately behind a cow – she cannot see you and will stop and look around at you. Instead walk to the side in her field of view.
  • To make cows move forward walk past in the opposite direction. Move ahead of cows will bring them to a halt.
  • Where one or more staff is needed to move cows, let one apply the pressure by positioning themselves to encourage movement while the other stays still.
  • Gentle rocking from side to side works better than waving arms around to get cows to move quietly and without alarm. Spook cows and they adhere to the natural instinct for flight – to get away.
  • Let the animal choose where to go by allowing them time to move. If a cows goes into a cubicle or stall of her own choice she is likely to stay there.
  • Technology has disconnected humans from understand animal behaviour. For example, backing gates in collecting yards. Train your staff to work with a cow’s natural instinct not against it. It will reduce stress on both parties.