Hence, a calf that is subjected to a long chase at gathering before sale might still be in the external protection mode for several days.

Cattle handling becomes important because it is one of the major ways that the external defense system is triggered. Once the system is triggered it has big effects on the external protection or disease prevention approach, and this effect can last for several days.

Cattle handling can, itself, be severe enough to suppress disease prevention and allow cattle to get sick.

Often there are a series of stresses that shift the internal priorities of calves into the external-protection mode.

Think of calves that are roughly gathered, sorted with whips and hits, crowded with strange calves, roughly worked through a chute, separated from their dams and subjected to a long truck ride.

Proper cattle handling involves many factors.

Three important aspects of handling include: 1) having appropriate equipment; 2) employing proper handler actions; and 3) using cattle handling aids in the proper way.

Each of these factors will be discussed in future articles. All three of these aspects must be appropriately dealt with if cattle handling is to be a non-stressful event.

Even with a good set of working equipment, improper actions by handlers can trigger external protective reactions in cattle.

Anxious use of a hot shot can negate all the arrangements made to have a low-stress working facility.

The goal for Beef Quality Assurance in Virginia is to have all personnel involved in the beef cattle industry in Virginia make improvements in cattle handling so that cattle can have maximum internal protection operating at all times.

Besides, our consumers are increasingly concerned about how the cattle that produce their product have been handled.

(Last January, Temple Grandin visited with Virginia cattlemen at the winter beef conference. She also had some interesting points to make on the subject of cattle handling. Her remarks can be found here).