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Low stress not only for Wagyu

Hoosier Perspectives: Implement low-stress practices for all beef cattle breeds.

Allison Lund, Indiana Prairie Farmer Senior Editor

May 13, 2024

2 Min Read
Two young kids watching a herd of cattle through a fence
TIME TO RETHINK: Take a moment to evaluate which practices could be improved in your cattle operation to help create a low-stress environment. Allison Lund

Massages, classical music and beer on tap sounds like a luxurious vacation. However, those amenities are sometimes enjoyed by the Wagyu breed of cattle.

While it sounds silly, implementing those practices helps to maintain low stress levels in Wagyu cattle, ultimately producing a higher-quality product. Not all producers go to the extremes of creating a five-star stay for their bovine residents, but they do rethink their typical chores and operations to create a low-stress environment.

No massages here

“We’re not feeding them beer like we’ve heard of in Japan, we don’t massage, and we don’t have the classical music,” says Elizabeth Stonecipher, owner of 550 Wagyu in Lafayette, Ind. “But one thing we really try to work hard at here is just low stress.”

Stonecipher and her husband, Adam, began crossing the Wagyu breed with their Angus cattle a few years ago. Bringing that breed into their operation opened their eyes to a whole new way of raising cattle through low-stress practices.

Here is a glimpse into some of those practices:

  • Ear tag when they’re young.

  • Band the bull calves when they’re young.

  • Have separate feedlots for different groups of cattle.

  • Only move cattle when necessary.

  • Maintain a consistent routine.

  • Stay calm when working with the cattle.

  • Provide a warm, dry shelter in the winter.

  • Provide cold water and shade trees in the summer.

For any breed

You may be reading through this list and thinking, “I’m already doing all of these things in my own cattle operation.” That’s the interesting thing about these practices — they can be used with any breed of cattle. It doesn’t take raising the Wagyu breed of cattle to create a low-stress environment.

“A lot of these practices are really anything that any cattle producer can apply to their operation,” Stonecipher adds.

The main reason for preventing stressful situations with Wagyu cattle is avoiding scenarios where they would consistently become tense, which makes their meat tough. These practices are mostly associated with Wagyu cattle because they are known for their tender, high-quality meat. However, maintaining low stress with any breed will lead to a better product.

Simply put, just try to stay cool, calm and collected when working with your cattle. I know it’s inevitable that someone will end up yelling while moving cattle. However, try to keep that toned down to prevent a stressful situation for your animals.

Stonecipher adds it can sometimes be the little things that get overlooked that can be stressful. She says they have some Angus cattle by their house, and she cringes when they get spooked by her children riding bikes too close to them. She is now able to pick up on those often-overlooked situations that could possibly cause the cattle stress.

While it may not be in the budget to give your cattle beer and massages, it is easy to evaluate your practices and look for areas that could be improved to cut back on stress.

Read more about:

Cattle ManagementBeef

About the Author(s)

Allison Lund

Indiana Prairie Farmer Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Allison Lund worked as a staff writer for Indiana Prairie Farmer before becoming editor in 2024. She graduated from Purdue University with a major in agricultural communications and a minor in crop science. She served as president of Purdue’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. In 2022, she received the American FFA Degree. 

Lund grew up on a cash grain farm in south-central Wisconsin, where the primary crops were corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her family also raised chewing tobacco and Hereford cattle. She spent most of her time helping with the tobacco crop in the summer and raising Boer goats for FFA projects. She lives near Winamac, Ind.

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