Cossio: 'Animal behavior is the most important thing in our business'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Workshops slated for next month aim at reducing stress for ranchers and cattle alike.
The Washington State University Grant County Extension offers a pair of one-day low-stress cattle-handling seminars from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 14-15 on the Grant County Fairgrounds in Moses Lake, Wash.
"We do want to reduce the stress of ranchers, but we know it will have a great impact on the performance of these cattle," said Sarah Smith, regional extension specialist.
Veterinarian Tom Noffsinger of Benkelman, Neb., will lead the workshops.
Sam Cossio, general manager for Easterday Ranches near Pasco, Wash., said Noffsinger is their vet and the operation first began making changes eight years ago. The 70,000-head operation built new facilities two years ago with Noffsinger's low-stress concepts in mind
"Animal behavior is the most important thing in our business," Cossio said. "My guys worry about the well-being of the animal, which in the end is going to give us what we want."
Noffsinger delivered a presentation for cattle feeders last August at the Easterday ranch as part of the program.
The workshop is targeted toward cow-calf operations and stocker operations.
The first day will feature cattle-handling fundamentals, facility design and working cattle in confined settings. The second day will cover advanced cattle-handling principles, low-stress handling in open pastures and range settings, working cattle with horses and dogs, and handling bulls.
Smith said local producers requested the program. A $28,000 grant from WSU's Western Center for Risk Management helped the extension fund the workshop and keep attendance costs low, Smith said.
Changes can be as simple as an attitude adjustment, remaining calm and not raising one's voice, but can include changes to facility designs and understanding of cattle behavior and movement.
"Hopefully the offset in reduced stress, people safety and improved performance of these animals will outweigh any costs they put in," Smith said.
Cows handled in a low-stress manner gain more weight, are healthier, perform better and ensure safety for the rancher, Smith said.
"Handling animals can be a stressful time because we're trying to get them moved," Smith said. "We want that safety factor, but it will help family dynamics and taking away a little of that stress, so people want to work cattle instead of moving away from it."
Many producers are already doing the right thing, but they want to do better, Smith said. It sends a strong visual to customers, she added.
"It shows our strong commitment to consumers that this is something we take very seriously," she said. "Not just because it's the right thing to do, it also improves our safety and increases the performance of the animals."
Registration for both days is $50 per person, including seminars, handouts and lunch. Registration for one day is $30 per person. There is a $20 per-day late charge for registrations postmarked after Jan. 4.
To register with a credit card, go to www.BrownPaperTickets.com and enter number 299568.
Contact Smith at 509-754-2011, ext. 413 or firstname.lastname@example.org
www.animalag.wsu.edu under "Upcoming Events."