Restraint box

Handling cattle:

1. Being patient has the fastest results 

-If cattle are hesitant/refusing to walk into the restraint box, assess the restraint box and the area.  Is there something preventing the cattle from entering (blood on the floor, slippery flooring etc.)? Deal with the situation and try again. 

-Don’t force hesitant animals. This will induce stress. If possible let the animal be for the moment and have another try later on.  


2. Staffing 

Eliminate the necessity for employees to walk back and forth by placing at least one employee at the raceway beside the entrance to the restraint box and one employee responsible for working the restraint box. This will reduce the stress the cattle experiences and will reduce the waiting time at the restraint box. This will also have a positive effect on the workload of the employee and better results can be achieved.


3. Effective stunning with minimal stress

-Only guide the animal into the restraint box if he or she can be stunned immediately. If the stunman is not ready, or if there is a technical problem or delay in the slaughter chain, never leave an animal in the restraint box waiting!

-Once the animal has been guided into the restraint box, immediately close the back gate so that the animal is unable to walk backwards. 

-If the restraint box isn’t equipped with a head holder, only stun the animal when his or her head is positioned correctly. If the animal is anxious wait a moment until she or he holds the head still.

-If the restraint box is equipped with a head holder, immediately stun the animal once the head has been restrained.  Leaving the animal restrained while conscious will induce severe stress and can cause pain. 


Stress reducing design: 

1. Customization of the restraint box

Asses if the restraint box is still adequate for its purpose. Animals nowadays are bred to be large of size and may be too big for your current restraint box. Construct the restraint box in such way it can be customized to the animal’s size (in length and width). (e.g. partitions that can be placed in different positions enabling you to adjust the length and width). Never force a large animal to squeeze into a small restraint box. 


2. Restraint box with an open front side 

Having a restraint box with an open front creates the impression that the cattle will be able to walk through the box. This will make them less hesitant to enter the restraint box compared to one with a solid front, which gives the uncomfortable feeling to the animal that it is a dead-end. However, it is important that the cattle won’t be able to see any movements up ahead. 

Modern-day restraint boxes are usually equipped with a head restrainer, our experience with head restrainers is that it doesn’t always improve the animal’s wellbeing. Stunning will be easier with the use of the head restraint but is very stressful for the animal. Once the head has been fixed into position he or she must be stunned immediately.


3. The cattle’s view can be blocked by placing a piece of tarpaulin above the restrainer

Ideally cattle won’t be able to see the stunner or the operator for that matter.

When the operator is hanging above the cattle in its flight zone its perceived as threatening. The cattle’s vision can be blocked by placing a piece of tarpaulin above the restrainer.  


4. Reducing sound around and in the restraint box 

Cattle are easily startled by sudden noises, especially when it’s a hissing sound. Usually doors and parts of the restraint box are powered by a pneumatic (air) system. Hydraulic (liquid) powered systems make less noise and should be considered. In some instances, a pneumatic powered system is preferred, usually in the case when the restraint box is designed to be adjustable to the animal’s size. With the use of a  pneumatic-powered system it is easier to adjust the exact amount of pressure applied to the animal. If pneumatics  must be chosen, reduce noise by redirecting the hissing sound to another room via hoses. 


5. Solid side walls 

The restraint box should have 4 solid side walls. Side walls which don’t reach down to the floor create a distraction as cattle will try to look underneath, through the open gap. This in its turn will make the restraint and stunning process more difficult and even risky, as the animal will not have his or her head in the upright position. There is more risk of misfiring and long delays if the animal is distracted in the restraint box. 


6. Anti-slip flooring 

It’s very stressful for cattle when they lose their balance and slip or fall. Ensure the flooring is made from anti-slip materials such as rubber or asphalt.  Manure and blood will make the flooring slippery and make cattle hesitant to enter. Keep the flooring clean and maintain it regularly to make sure it remains anti-slip. If there is lots of manure in the restraint box, this is also an indication that the process is very stressful for the animals. Animals defecate when fearful.


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