The Importance of Stockyard Design to Effectively Manage Flight Zone

While flight zone is important in handling stock, it is also important when designing stockyards and is why animal psychology and Flight Zones are at the core of Atlex stockyard design

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It has been well documented that handling stresses can reduce productivity through lower conception rates and reduction in immune and rumen function in livestock. Using our knowledge of animal psychology and their flight zone we can handle stock more effectively, safely and stress free through a well-designed set of yards. Reduced stress for the livestock and reduced stress for the handlers – a win for all.

As many of you will know, the flight zone is the area around the animal that, if encroached upon, causes the animal to escape in a certain direction in response to the perceived threat.

Image credit: Grandin, T. 2017. Behavioural Principles of Livestock Handling

Let’s recap on flight zone basics!

  • To move a single animal forward, the handler must be behind the point of balance and stay out of the blind spot
  • When close to the animal, the point of balance is at the shoulder of the animal, when further away the point of balance moves forward to just behind the eye
  • An animal will turn and look, becoming aware of a handler’s presence when they are on the outer edge of the pressure zone
  • When the outer most edge of the flight zone is penetrated the animal moves away

Flight Zone and Stockyard Design

While flight zone is important in handling stock, it is also important when designing stockyards and is why animal psychology and Flight Zones are at the core of Atlex stockyard design.  Our design principles have been peer-reviewed by Temple Grandin (PhD), a world authority on animal psychology, to ensure that our designs promote easy flow of stock. Of course, flight zone is one key factor we consider!

The use of curved shapes

  • The curved, bugle shape of a sheep drafting race can help you move around the animals Flight Zone effectively.
  • The bugle takes advantage of the natural circling instinct of sheep to keep them moving through the yards, as sheep move in a circular motion in response to attack by a predator.
  • The angle of the bugle narrowing into a draft race is critical to promoting the easy flow of sheep.
  • Cattle yard designs incorporate a curved race for two reasons:
    1. It prevents the animal from seeing what is at the other end of the chute until it is almost there
    2. It takes advantage of the natural tendency to circle around a handler and as they go around a 180 degree turn, they think they are going back to where they came from and move more freely

Safety features in cattleyards

For cattle, the flight zone becomes very important as deeply penetrating the flight zone causes agitation – and possibly, injury to either the animal or you. Being able to work cattle from a safe distance without deeply penetrating the flight zone are critical.  We therefore incorporate key safety features such as cattle-free areas; raised non-slip walkways; escape gates on outside of working races; or sliding gates.  These features allow the cattle to move along a race or through a yard with reduced stress and agitation, and these features provided greater safety for you.

It has been well documented that handling stresses can reduce productivity through lower conception rates and reduction in immune and rumen function in livestock. Using our knowledge of animal psychology and their flight zone, we can handle stock more effectively, safely and stress free through a well-designed set of yards.

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