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  • Barbra Jotzke-Torrier

Temple Grandin Cattle Chute

“Come on Ladies, Let’s go.”

Kent and Kyle Musfeldt were guiding their cattle into the corral in front of the barn. The Musfeldt’s are cattle tenants at Whiterock Conservancy and are currently renting part of the Historic Garst Farm District cattle pens and Temple Grandin working facility.

I was standing in the modern looking building at the Garst Historic Farmstead. And while the building itself does not qualify as historic – the only one in the district that does not – it contains an important part of livestock history. And I was going to get to see it in action today.

The ladies and later their calves called collectively “the guys”, no matter the gender, were in store for some vaccinations. And while no one likes going to the doctor, this barn contained a Temple Grandin designed chute to reduce the stress on the cattle, and less stress means better health (and happier cows).

Temple Grandin, who is autistic, used her own experience of feeling threatened by her surroundings to see animal handling from the perspective of the animal. In designing the chutes used for cattle handling, Grandin emphasized reducing visual distractions, taking advantage of the animal’s instinct to return the way they came and ensuring the cattle can see where to go without seeing the handlers. Grandin concluded a curved chute, with a 180 degree turn after the straight entrance was the most effective.

I had heard about this design before, and was anxious to see it in action.

The first group of ladies were ushered into the round corral and with very little coaxing to enter the chute. There was a small delay in getting started, as the pump to administer one of the medications was clogged. While Kent and Kyle did what farmers do – figure out how to fix the problem on the fly – the cattle stood, silently in the chute. Even to this self-described city girl I could tell they weren’t anxious. They were waiting their turn. Once the pump was fixed, the process ran smoothly. And while I am sure they were not happy about getting a shot or bad tasting medicine, the ladies slowly exited the barn after their turn and returned to chewing on some hay.

As I was about to leave for the office – it was time for “the guys” to get their medicine. I knew the ladies had done this before, but the calves had not. I wondered how they would do. Of course, the calves were fine too. Because good design reduces stress on everyone.

The Musfeldts operate KM Cattle Co. a 50 year old Historic Angus herd that sells Angus breeding stock and Angus freezer beef. They said this facility is truly amazing as they experienced first hand the Temple Grandin design. No stress kept the cattle quiet which is good for health, gain and carcass quality not to mention good for the safety of the handler and for the consumer in helping to provide safe wholesome high quality beef. Now Kyle and Kent have seen first hand how Temple Grandin has truly contributed to Animal Husbandry and in helping to provide quality beef to consumers in a humane manner. I am thankful the Garst family recognized this value years ago.

You can see a video of the cattle chute in action here.

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