Animal Handling and Restraint

A cow in India
Dairy Farming: Animal Handling and Restraining
There is no magic trick to have a well-behaved and controlled animal, except a handler who is confident and willing to work with the animal. Cattles or farm animals are usually handled or restrained for various reasons. Some of them are

1. For physical examination of animals
2. For administration of drugs and vaccines
3. For carrying out operations like dehorning, castration

General Principle of Animal Handling and Restraining
The general principle of animal handling and restraining is to avoid exciting the animal and maintain the safety. A good animal handler understands the psyche of the animal and ensures his or her own safety.

It is important to understand, animals usually live in herds. This behaviour allows to be comfortable and ensures them safety. If an animal being separated from the herd, they tend to get excited. If excited, an animal should be allowed to go back to its herd.

Behavioural Considerations in Animal Handling
The animal reaction to a stimulus is known as the behaviour. Different animals have different reaction or behavior, even to the same situation or stimulus. The behaviour of animals determines their ability to survive in nature.

The study of animal behaviour is known as ethology. The study allows one to understand behaviour of domestic animals and their relationship with humans. This is immensly helpful in terms of animal handling and economic benefits in animal husbandry. Therefore, it is important for the dairy farmers to have in-depth knowledge of animal behaviour as it helps in efficient breeding, feeding and management.

The animal handler must always remember following aspects of  animal behaviour.
1. Basic instincts: An animal also experiences basic things like hunger, thirst, fear, sickness and strong sexual urge. They also show abnormal behaviour if in stress such as kicking or biting. One should know these behaviour and take necessary safety precautions.
2. Sensitivity to contrasts: Cattle, sheep, swine and other farm animals are generally colour blind and poor depth perception. This make them extremely sensitive to contrast. A good handler should know this and make them comfortable around changing lighting.
3. Kicking habits: Horses and mules commonly kick out through their hind legs, while cows and other bovine animals kick in forward and then kick out outwards. They also have a tendency to kick sideways in case of pain or injury.
4. Maternal behaviour: Farm animals with new-borns, especially cows, are difficult to handle. Whenever possible, their calf should be allowed to stay close to them.
5. Hesitation towards unfamiliar environment: Animals are usually hesitant toward new environment. This can explain why they behave abnormally when they are removed from their known environment, separated from herd and being approached by an unknown person.

Basic Elements of Animal Handling
1. Fight Zone

It is the minimum distance in which an animal tries to maintain between itself and any perceived threat. It is their comfort zone. The size of the fight zone differs from animal to animal and hen an animal recieves care, it usually lessens through time.

2. Blind spot
It is the immediate area behind the tail of an animal. An animal cannot perceive the handler in this zone. A good handler never approaches from this zone as it makes the animal uncomfortable and in the worst case scenario, cause injury to both animal and animal handler.

3. Point of balance
Point of balance is the imaginary point located on the animal shoulder and divides animal body into two portions. First, front portion and second, rear portion. If the handler crosses this hypothetical point in the front portion, animal generally moves backwards whereas if handler moves toward rear portion, animal moves in the forward direction.

Other Important aspects of animal handling
1. Animals when excited are difficult to handle. Thus, if cattle or any animal becomes excited, allow them minimum 30 minutes to return to normalcy.
2. Animals express fear under stress through their behavioural symptoms such raising their ears, snorting and others.
3. Cattle are colour-blind and have poor depth perception. Henceforth, they are very sensitive to contrasts and one should contrasting situation.
4. The high-pitched noises should be avoided as these noises frighten animals.
5. Similar to humans, cattle remember bad or traumatic experiences. So one should give due respect while handling them.
6. Animals are observant. They grow attachment with their owners or care takers and can sense their mood.
7. Some animals take longer time to be tained than others. So, one should handle them with safety and proper care. Mostly, one should not lose their patience.

Animal Distress Signals
During stressful conditions, all animals express fear through their behaviour. Some of these behaviourial signals are

1. Raised ears
2. Snoring and repetitive vocalisation
3. Rapid tail movements
4. Pawing

A good animal handler understand these with experience.

Approaching the Farm Animals
As we have learnt, the knowledge of right way to approach an animal is must for handling them safely. Any suspicious activity or movement can make an animal uncomfortable. Hence follwing steps should be followed by an animal handler.

1. Ask the attendant or owner whether the animal is docile or furious.
2. Never carry a stick when approaching an animal.
3. If possible, call the animal by its name, and preferably approach them from the left side.
4. Pat them gently by calling their name.
5. Avoid the kicking region while approaching the animal.
6. Do not entice them with concentrates and jaggery. Especially, in the case of large farm animals.

Restraining Cows and Other Bovine Animals
Soft ropes, halters and leather strap can be used for handling the cattle and moving them. However, one should keep a few things in mind while restraining animal

General Information
 1. Cows are generally nervous than other animals. Let them understand your approach by a gentle touch.
2. In case of kicking, do not shout or behave rude with them. Newly mother cows can be fierceful while someone approaching their calf and this information should be shared with visitors.
3. Special attention need to be given to a breeding bull and also a handler should never directly approach them.

Head
1. To manually restraint the head sction, grasp the bridge between nostrils with thumb and forefinger of one hand and hold it firmly. With the other hand, hold the horn.
2. Tools such as bull nose ring, bull holder, bull nose leader, muzzle cover and mouth gags can be handy in restraining.

Forlegs
1. By raising the forleg off the ground. This helps in controlling the movement of the animals and hinder their kicking with the hind leg.

Hindlegs
1. There are two commonly used ways of restraining the hind legs. First, Anti-kicker and Milker’s knot and Second, Restraining the tail to divert
animal's attention.

Casting of animal:
It means making the animal fall on the ground. Animals are cast for various reasons such as surgical operations, hoof trimming. It is mainly done to avoid injury.

Generally, the casting is done in a large farm with an casting pit. A casting pit is a circular area of about 8 to 10 metres in diameter which is filled with bedding materials such as sand, hay, straw and saw dust. As precaution, sharp material are never kept close an animals are kept on fasting for atleast 12 hours before casting.

There are two methods for the casting of an animal. First, Reuff’s method and second, Burley method.

Restraining small farm animals such as sheep and goat
Sheep and goat are restrained by means of hand or an arm under the neck with the other hand or arm placed on or around the rear side of the animal. Lifting or dragging sheep by the fleece, tail, ears, horns or legs is completely unacceptable and dangerous. Tools such as harnesses, tethers and yokes of suitable material are properly fitted and adjusted.

Safe practices
One should ensure personal by observing following practices

1. The important protective equipment such as gloves, apron, gumboots and mask should be worn.
2. Avoid exposure to zoonotic diseases, use basic hygiene and sanitation practices which include prompt treating and disposal of infected animals, adequate disposal of infected tissues and cleaning of contaminated areas.
3. Always handle any hazardous equipment such as needles or chemicals with extreme caution.

Source: NCERT

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