Importance of reducing noise when handling livestock

(Updated July 2010)

It is important to reduce noise when handling livestock. Animals are more sensitive to high frequency noise than humans. They can hear high pitched noise that humans can not hear. Human hearing is most sensitive at 1000 to 3000 Hz and the auditory sensitivity of cattle and sheep is greatest at 7000 to 8000 Hz.

People should avoid making loud noises when moving animals. Whistling and whip cracking can cause animals to become excited. The very best handlers are completely silent when cattle are being moved or driven. There is no arm waving and the animals will be much calmer and respond to small movements of the handler. The nly exception to this rule is when sound is used to call the cattle. In this situation the sound is associated with a reward such as feed. Equipment should be designed to reduce noise. Clanging and banging metal parts should be silenced with rubber pads. Equipment operated with hydraulics should be engineered to minimize noise. Some types of hydraulic pumps make more noise than others. High pitched noise from a hydraulic pump is disturbing to animals. Air hissing is very distressful to livestock. Air operated equipment should be equipped with mufflers to reduce noise. Hissing air may cause animals to stop and refuse to walk through a facility.

Calm cattle and pigs are easier to handle and move than excited animals. Animlas that become agitated and excited bunch together and are more difficult to separate and sort. If animals become agitated or excited, allowing them to calm down for a few minutes will make them easier to handle. It takes up to 20 minutes for the heartrate of severely agitated cattle to return to normal. Research by Joe Stookey and his colleagues in Canada indicated that yelling and whistling increases the heartrate of cattle more than the sound of a gate slamming. Handlers should be quiet. Research by Jennifer Lanier and Temple Grandin at Colorado State University indicated that cattle with a nervous exciteable temperament were much more sensistive to high pitched intermittent noise than cattle with a calmer temperament. Yelling and whistling is likely to make nervous animals become agitated.

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