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Understanding Flight Zones

Like you and I, cattle have their own personal space. A flight zone can be defined as the space surrounding an individual or a herd that when penetrated will cause an attempt to re-establish a comfortable distance from the intruder. Flight zones are not static; they will vary in size and shape due to a number of environmental conditions and circumstances. It is important to realize that the size of flight zones can change depending on the handling. You can shrink the flight zones of nervous cattle or increase the flight zones of quiet cattle that they donít want to move.

Low stress livestock handling is based upon strategic pressuring of the flight zone of individual animals or a herd. Ideally a handler will never penetrate the flight zone so aggressively or so deep that the animals panic and take flight. Rather it is a process of applying and releasing pressure on the flight zone edge in a manner that gets the response you want. Pressure is equal to proximity, speed and body language. Donít confuse speed and body language. Remember body language reflects your emotional state. You can be moving very quickly and yet still be calm and confident and you will get a totally different response than someone else moving at the same speed that is frustrated and angry. To make this work you need to develop a feel for the flight zone and an understanding of herding dynamics so you can be in the right place at the right time in the right manner. Having a feel for the flight zone will allow you to finesse the flight zones using your movement and your position to get the cattle to calmly and quietly go where you are asking.