What is a cow's flight zone?

Ag Safety and Health March 01, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

If you are planning to move cattle, you must first understand their "flight zone.” Understanding a cow's flight zone will reduce stress on the animal and reduce the likelihood of injuries to you and the animal. A cow’s flight zone is similar to your personal space—it is the distance from an animal that a handler must maintain for the animal to feel comfortable. When a person enters the cow's flight zone, the cow will move. A dairy cow that is accustomed to human interaction on a daily basis has a smaller flight zone than a beef animal out on the range (the flight zone of such an animal might be up to 300 ft).

“Point of balance” is a factor related to flight zone, and working with a cow's point of balance will also help you move a cow more safely. The point of balance is located at the cow’s shoulder. To move a cow forward, you should be positioned behind its shoulder. If you need to move the animal backward, position yourself in front of the shoulder. Whether moving a cow forward or backward, work at the edge of the cow’s flight zone and at angle of 45° to 60° so that you stay within the animal's field of vision.

For more information about handling beef cattle, click here to view the article "Beef Cattle Handling Safety." 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.