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Properly designed, maintained and operated livestock handling facilities are more humane and more efficient in ensuring a steady uninterrupted flow of livestock to the slaughter line, and will usually pay for themselves by reducing bruises, injuries and lost work time. Down time or lost work time in a large slaughter plant is expensive since a five minute delay can cost over $500 in lost meat production. Another benefit of good systems is increased safety for the employees; many serious accidents have occurred when agitated cattle turn and trample a handler.

Although specific recommendations vary for different species, certain general principles of equipment design should be observed in all cases. These include the provision of secure flooring and a smooth transition from yard to holding pen to restraint and stunning areas, as well as consideration of natural species behavior and the importance of minimizing stress when choosing a particular type of equipment.

The recommendations and information in this article are based on five years of observations and practical experience by the author in beef, pork and sheep slaughter plants, feedlots and ranches throughout the United States.