The Great American Cattle Shoot

Awhile back a blog post came across the desk discussing the horrors of cattle handling procedures during processing. The blogger was particularly offended by the use of the “cattle shoot”. Confused, I kept reading, all the while wondering who in the world was out there shooting cattle and why would they bother processing cattle they were going to shoot? Are you as confused as I was by now?

After reading the whole article a couple of times I finally figured out that the author meant cattle “chute”. Ahhhh, now that made more sense. A cattle chute is a piece of equipment used to restrain cattle so they can be handled. They can be doctored, vaccinated, ear tagged, branded, or just given a general checkup. If a cow is thinner than she should be, a rancher might put her in the “chute” to check her teeth because when a cow starts losing her teeth, her ability to eat and chew diminishes, often causing her to lose weight.

Cow standing patiently in the squeeze chute.

Cow standing patiently in the        squeeze chute.

As I thought about the blogger’s objection to the use of a cattle “shoot”, I realized that it didn’t matter that the word was wrong because the “chute” was just as objectionable in her eyes. Whether she thought ranchers were shooting cattle or just constraining them in the chute, she objected on the grounds of inhumane treatment.

I understand, shooting cattle is distasteful and, thankfully, I don’t know any rancher who would even consider such action outside of extreme circumstances. A dying cow may be shot to put her out of her misery, but that is an act of mercy, not animal cruelty. Putting cattle through a squeeze chute in order to be able to take care of them is an act of stewardship, good animal husbandry. It does not hurt a cow to be restrained when done properly and in fact, cattle that are handled correctly will stand in line awaiting their turn.

As time has passed since reading about the “cattle shoot”, it came to mind how we as ranchers don’t always understand what others see and think about the work we do. Correcting the blogger’s choice of words wouldn’t change anything, she still wouldn’t understand. How could she, her whole knowledge base comes from sources like the internet, social media, anti-animal agriculture videos and books. When and where would she have the chance to meet a real rancher and participate in a cattle processing event? If she could, the odds are good to great that she would leave with a different viewpoint. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. If you’re a rancher, this branding season invite somebody who isn’t from a ranch family. If we ranchers are doing it right, we have nothing to hide, but everything to gain…one person at a time.

Whether you’ve never worked cattle or you are an old hand at it, we hope you’ll take a few minutes out of your time to let Baxter Black, DVM be your guide through some topnotch tips for handling cattle in a manner that is safe for the cattle and for the cowboys and cowgirls alike. Enjoy and be sure to share!

BeefEducation.com congratulates Dr. Baxter Black, Dr. Temple Grandin, and Dr. David Lalman for their excellent presentation.