The Flight Zone

The Flight Zone

How to handle livestock with less stress?

One of the key concepts that will help you work your cattle efficiently and with less stress is the idea of the flight zone. The flight zone is another way to describe a cow’s personal space. In the image on your left the flight zone is approximated by the dashed red line. When a handler enters the animals individual flight zone the animal will feel uncomfortable. To ease the stress the animal will tend to move away from the handler until the handler is outside of the animal’s flight zone. With understanding and practice a handler can use their understanding of the flight zone to encourage livestock to move where the handler wishes them to go.

The size of the flight zone is determined by the individual animal’s comfort with the handler as well as the animal’s current level of excitement or stress. If cattle are worked calmly and quietly by a familiar handler the flight zone will be smaller and easier to work.

Select the green circle in the top right corner to learn more…

The Flight Zone

The Flight Zone

The point of balance and its relationship to cattle movement

The Point of Balance is a line that runs perpendicular to the animal somewhere around the animal’s shoulders. When a handler enters the animal’s flight zone and crosses the point of balance the animal will change directions.  If the handler enters the flight zone behind the point of balance the animal will want to move forward.

To maintain forward movement the handler should step back and out of the animals flight zone. This rewards the animal for doing what you wanted. If the animal stops the handler will move forward into the flight zone again to motivate movement to begin. The handler should be positioned between 45º and 60º behind the animal’s point of balance.

The handler should be careful not to stand directly behind the animal as this is the animal’s blind spot and may cause the animal to turn around to face you. If the handler enters the flight zone in front of the point of balance the animal will stop or back-up. Deep penetration of the flight zone should also be avoided as this may cause the animal to become agitated and run.

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Livestock move in opposite direction

The Flight Zone

Livestock move in the opposite direction to the handler

Handlers working with cattle benefit from understanding counter movement behavior exhibited by herding stock. This simply describes the behavior of livestock to move in the opposite direction as the handler (see image). As the handler walks from the head to the tail of the animal the animal will want to move in the opposite direction. You will also note that the livestock also tend to turn in behind the handler. This is important if you are handling cattle in a Bud Box. This method will help you move stock with less effort and lower stress for all involved.

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Moving livestock through an S-Alley

Moving livestock through a U-Alley

The Flight Zone

Working livestock in a handling system

Using your understanding of counter movement you can adapt your movement in relation to your handling system to benefit from this behavior. Start where you want your livestock to go such as at the squeeze chute.  As you walk from the squeeze chute along the side of your working alley you will pass by the point of balance of each of the animals in the alley. As you pass each animal they will move forward towards the squeeze chute (and away from you). When you reach the beginning of the alley you loop back, out of the flight zone, and start again at the squeeze.

Select the green arrow in the top left to see the U-Alley system.