REDUCING LIVESTOCK STRESS
How to Reduce Stress in your Goats, Sheep & Swine
Reducing livestock stress starts with planning and training. When it’s time to get your market animal safely to the show, it can become a big challenge if not planned out ahead of time. Simply put, your market animal for the past 3-4 months has become very comfortable with their pen, their surroundings and daily habits. Then suddenly, the time to prepare them for the show and haul them to the show leads to potentially stressful event! At the show they are in a new environment filled with new pen mates, water, smells, sounds and temperatures. All of these factors can cause them stress which can make them go off feed, colic, panic or not perform well. Other contributing stress factors can be their genetics, muscling, feed supplements, dehydration or general mismanagement. This can be avoided or reduced by performing these daily training and management methods!
SOCIALIZING YOUR PROJECTS AT HOME
There are many stress relieving benefits of socializing your goat, lamb or pig at home and as often as safely possible…and Turkeys too!
At our house, the dogs were trained to be good to the goats, sheep, horses, turkeys and pigs. Each evening, we made the habit of setting aside time to let the animals out together. We found that they learned to like each other and were interested in the activities of the barn. We started with one on one and then expanded by adding other species. The horses were the last to be added as they could cause a lot of harm if it didn’t go well. Can you count 7 animals in the two side pictures?
Socializing your project to other animals and other stimulus prepares them for the future activities of the showgrounds. It always amazed me how curious each species was. The pigs acted like the dogs, the goats liked the horses, the lamb tried hard to buddy up to someone and the turkeys were always the yard supervisors and were center of any activity!
SHOW PREPARATION STEPS AT HOME
Scales or Grooming Stands – As many times as you can, load your goat, lamb or pig into the scales or grooming stand and let them stand there supervised. This will help develop patience to be still. Take a brush and groom them or condition their skin to create relaxation and a good mindset. Here we put our newly purchased lamb up on the stand so that we could get familiar with her. It also gave her a chance to get familiar with the dogs.
Daily Training – Handle and train your goat, lamb or pig calmly in the cool part of the day. This trains them to be willingly and comfortable to work with you. It also reduces the stress from the heat of the day. It’s also a good time of day after your homework is complete! Let your animal play and check things out. Pigs love water sprinklers and it helps them relax. Don’t expect your goat to like water…they will act like it’s something toxic that will kill them! Leaving your animal in the pen for days without getting them out to work can cause stress later on. It causes stress because they are not accustom to being handling or different environments.
Manage your feeding program from day one – From the first day you feed your animal, make sure that you have a good feeding program and schedule. Feeding a quality feed at a set daily schedule helps your animal’s weight gains to meet your target weight. A consistent feeding schedule also helps avoid last minute holding (dieting) or feed increases which can cause stress. See articles on feeding for more details.
FEEDING CAUTION: Attempting to add weight by feeding cakes, cookies, ice cream and other NON-LIVESTOCK feed is highly discouraged. There are many stories about putting weight on using these food categories. They only put your goat, lamb or pig at risk of scours, physical stress and other intestinal and stomach related issues.
Feed grain & supplements as recommended Always Follow the recommended feeding by the feed manufacturer. Overfeeding grains and supplements can be harmful and cause undue stress by over developing muscles or fat and even causing lameness.
Trailer Loading Training – If you have a trailer available, practice loading/unloading. Even drive around the block will help your goat, lamb or pig to become accustomed to trailer movement.
TRAILERING TO THE SHOW - PREPARATION STEPS:
Plan the trip – Be sure to know the show’s receiving of animals schedule – They have set times and do not allow any other arrival times or dates. Set a time to haul and then work backwards to plan out packing the trailer with all of your equipment. This helps to reduce you & your animal’s stress! This also gives plenty of free time to load your animal quietly and calmly. If it’s an option, try to pick the cooler part of the day to haul.
Prepare the Trailer with Shavings Have ample shavings in the trailer for your animals comfort, safety and easy clean up.
Picking up other Show Animals – If you are picking up & hauling multiple animals at different locations, be sure to have loaded animals secured while others are being loaded. Having an animal escape out of the trailer will not be good for anyone’s stress! You or the animal! Pigs need to be secured in smaller pens within the trailer and preferably with pen mates to avoid pig fights! They can do a lot of damage each other on the ride.
Drive the trailer as quietly as possible. Driving fast and taking corners will stress your animals. Important Note: Expect a long line of livestock trailers and expect to wait! Hopefully the other families have read this article and are prepared and calm, but be ready for some to be stressed and impatient. Just as the traffic is always slow after a big concert, be ready for it and don’t fuss about it. You’ll get there when you get there! You’ll be glad you prepared.
Unload Your Livestock Carefully – Once you’ve reached the location to unload, be very careful and calm when unloading your animals. Watch for vehicles driving by to offload their animals. It will be busy and chaotic. Walk your animal quietly to their show pen. If you are moving pigs, arrange to have a couple of people with pig boards to help. Just in case your pig bolts in the wrong direction. It’s also important to move pigs slowly to keep them from bruising their feet. At their heavy show weights, it’s easy for a pig to turn up lame.
Shavings – Be sure to have the show pen bedded with thick bedding in place before you unload your animal. Once your goat, lamb or pig is in their pen, check the water and make sure it’s clear, clean and cool. If your pig is overweight and you are holding water, make sure that they get some water after the trailer ride. Only restrict water under supervision of an experienced leader. In hot climates never restrict water completely.
Daily Show Care – Be sure to care for your animal every day until it leaves the grounds or is officially taken over by the livestock association. The best care for your animal is by you and your knowledge of their needs and comfort. Having you around them in this new environment will help reduce their stress.
Preparing and practicing these steps will help you balance out your goat, lamb or pig and help to avoid unnecessary stress. The more familiar you are with your market animal, the better your experience!
The relationship you develop at home will help you at the show!