Temple Grandin shares her expertise | SteamboatToday.com

Temple Grandin shares her expertise

Karina Spitzley/For the Steamboat Today

With more than 130 filled seats and a standing-room-only crowd, it was sure to be a memorable evening. Ranchers, veterinarians, horse lovers and those just curious about animal behavior filled Library Hall in Bud Werner Memorial Library on May 26 to listen to the insight and keen observations of Dr. Temple Grandin.

That's right, Temple Grandin, as in this year's Time magazine choice for 100 most influential people. As in the focus of the HBO special starring Claire Danes. As in the author of "Animals in Translation" and "Thinking in Pictures," both New York Times best-sellers. But of most importance to those in attendance that night, Dr. Temple Grandin, as in the Colorado State University animal sciences professor who has transformed the way the United States cattle industry utilizes its corral and processing facilities. In fact, her corral designs are used to handle almost half the cattle in this country. She is a consultant to McDonald's, Burger King and Swift.

Dr. Grandin spoke about a variety of subjects, from animal conditioning to effective corral use to social networking as a way to keep our agricultural heritage intact. She discussed her objective scoring system to evaluate stress levels of cattle in processing plants. She provided an overview of simple, yet effective ways to handle cattle and other livestock. For example, Dr. Grandin recommends:

■ Squeeze chutes should have a well-lighted area ahead of them — if they are placed in the dark, cattle will be reluctant to move forward.

■ At the same time, allow for solid sides leading into the chute so the animal does not sense something or someone in its flight zone. If you've got spaced boards, consider plywood or sheet metal to cover them up.

■ Use non-slip flooring.

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■ Try blowing a vehicle horn each time you feed so that animals associate you with something positive.

■ Be mindful of chains, metal, water or other reflection-causing items — the light and the sound can spook the animals.

■ Start using YouTube, Facebook or other networking sites to get your voice heard. These are a free means of showing the world what ranching entails and the men, women and children that make it all possible. Get your children or grandchildren involved to help you set it up.

■ Be sure to read "Humane Livestock Handling" if you don't already have a copy. These recommendations, as well as suggested corral designs, are covered thoroughly.

Grandin came here at the invitation of the Routt County CattleWomen, who wanted those in the Northwest Colorado agricultural community to learn more about low-stress cattle handling, effective corral use and animal behavior. The presentation was part of the Cattlewomen's long-standing dedication to educating the public and Routt County about cattle and our western heritage. Steamboat Veterinary Hospital and the Routt County Extension Office also helped to support this event. For more information about Routt County CattleWomen events, visit their site at http://www.routtcountycattlewomen.com — and don't forget about the Ace at the Curve grill-off on Saturday!

Karina Spitzley is president of Routt County CattleWomen