New things are both frightening and attractive. If you place a flag in the middle of a field, the cattle will be curious and come up to investigate it. However, if that same flag was suddenly shoved in the animal’s face, it would react violently due to fear. New things are attractive when the animal is allowed to voluntarily approach them, but they can be very scary if they are introduced too quickly. Researchers have discovered that an animal’s brain has separate emotional circuits which motivate it to either go into fear mode or seek and approach mode. The circuit works like a switch and it can be in either the seek position or the fear position.
Improving cattle handling practices provides many advantages. Cattle that remain calm during handling have improved weight gain and are less likely to have dark cutting meat. Dark cutting is a serious quality defect where the meat is darker and drier than normal and it has a shorter shelf life at the grocery store. Another advantage of adopting low stress cattle handling methods is to reduce injuries to both people and cattle.