1. Reduce sound
*In the most idyllic lairage there is hardly any sound. Cattle have sensitive hearing and become stressed from sudden sounds.
E.g. metal gates being opened and closed (metal on metal). We advises moving parts (gates, dividers etc.) to be made of plastics (polypropylene). Rubber/plastic nobs and strips can be mounted as well to avoid metal on metal contact.
*Avoid high ceilings. This will reduce echo and noise. Make use of isolation materials that will absorb sounds. With the use of pneumatics (air pressure) ensure that the whistling/sizzling sounds are redirected to another area, away from the animals. Other areas, like washing areas which produce a lot of sound shouldn’t be near the pens.
2. Keep cattle in the same groups
When groups are mixed they will start to jump up on each other (aka mounting, a form of dominant behavior). Jumping will induce stress and increases the risk of injury. By keeping the cattle in the same social groups this kind of behavior can be avoided.
The advantages: calm cattle and fewer injuries. In addition, they will be easier to drive.
We have encountered trucks were partitions could be placed in different positions and the size of groups could be controlled. The same would be possible for the lairage. Keeping cattle in stable social groups will be beneficial for the cattle’s wellbeing.
3. Anti-mounting fencing
We advise to place anti-mounting fences (half meter above the withers of the cattle) so that the cattle physically won’t be able to jump each other. This will reduce stress and will create a calmer atmosphere.
Another option would be to place anti-mounting fencing in the corners of each waiting area, this way the cattle who are being jumped on can hide under the fencing.
4. Proper drinking facilities
Each lairage should have fresh and sufficient drinking water for the cattle to drink as they please and require. Install troughs and spooned bowls. Not all cattle are acquainted with drinking nipples and some will have trouble drinking from these, having these alone won’t be sufficient. To avoid fights, ensure there are plenty water resources installed throughout the area.
5. Stocking densities
Avoid a high stocking density in the lairage as this will increase stress and mounting behavior. Furthermore, cattle will need adequate space to be able to comfortably lay down and keep distance to one and other. The purpose of the lairage is for the cattle to be able to rest.
Cattle will be easier to drive and will be calmer in the stun box if the lairage is a comfortable and stress-free environment. It won’t meet its purpose if it’s packed with cattle. When bulls are kept separately they should also be provided with sufficient space to be able to lay down.
6. Comfort for “suspect” animals
Because these animals are suspected for being sick or wounded, euthanizing or at the very least slaughtering them as soon as possible is the most humane option. If this isn’t an option, ensure to provide extra comfort for them while they wait for inspection. Make the suspect pen comfortable with for example rubber mats to stand and lay on. This is softer than bare concrete flooring and isolates them from the cold floor. Other bedding material can be used if your plant allows it, such as straw. It is also very important that the pen for suspect animals be located in a very quiet area of the lairage where there is no activity, so as not to cause additional stress.
7. Keep the walking route clear and simple
Ideally the lairage has a diagonal design, where the livestock enter one side and exit the other. Due to a simple diagonal design its clear to them where to go and there is no need for them to turn around or manoeuvre sharp angles. Less effort will be needed to drive the animals.
8. Ensure the walls in the lairage are at an adequate height and closed.
To avoid any distractions caused by movements and people, construct walls which are solid almost all the way down to the ground.
Also ensure these are at adequate height so that cattle can’t look over the walls (construct the walls at the height of the withers) or injure themselves attempting to jump over them.
9. Minimize the waiting time
Unlike with pigs, cattle don’t benefit from long waiting hours in the lairage. Ideally, the maximum waiting time is 3 hours.
With a waiting time exceeding 12 hours feed and appropriate bedding must be provided to the cattle.
10. Clean the flooring regularly
The flooring on which the cattle walk and lay on should be clean and dry. This is important for the cattle’s comfort and to avoid injuries caused by slipping.
11. Separate the bulls from the cows
Bulls should be kept separately unless they are from the same pair.
Always separate the bulls from the cows.
12. Play classical or calm music.
Research has proven that harmonic music has a calming effect on cattle. Install speakers in the lairage and play these types of music, avoid rock music and types alike. This also helps blend out abrupt noises that scare cattle.
13. video surveillance
Install intelligent camera surveillance in the slaughterhouse (at each area which contains live animals). This way the staff’s behavior with regards to handling of animals can be monitored.
Permission and approval of Eyes on Animals