An understanding of cattle behavior facilitates handling, reduces stress, reduces bruise defects and improves both handler safety and animal welfare.

The Dairy Animal Care & Quality Assurance (DACQA) Certification manual provides information about two key cattle behavior concepts – flight zone and point of balance.

Flight zone is the animal's personal space. When you enter an animal’s flight zone, it moves away. The size of the flight zone varies depending on how accustomed cattle are to people and their current surroundings, etc.

To determine the edge of the flight zone, slowly walk up to the animals. If you breach their flight zone, they will either bolt and run away or turn back and run past you. Animals usually stop moving when the handler retreats from the flight zone. Work the edge of the flight zone when handling cattle.

The other key concept is point of balance. The point of balance is an imaginary line at the animal’s shoulders. Stand behind the animal’s point of balance to move it forward. To make the animal move backward, stand in front of the point of balance. Animals move forward when a handler walks past the point of balance in the opposite direction of desired movement.

Find more information, including diagrams illustrating an animal’s flight zone and point of balance, on pages 52-53 in Section IV-D of the DACQA manual.

DACQA is a voluntary, national certification program intended to enhance and demonstrate quality animal care practices that assure food safety, quality and value as well as enhance consumer confidence in the milk and beef products harvested from cattle on America’s dairy farms.