Cows Don't Like Stress - How Temple Grandin Helped

Stress is not good for cows. When cows are continually stressed they don't grow as well, don't produce as much milk, and don't gain the weight they need. They become much more likely to succumb to infections which can spread to the herd. 

Dr. Temple Grandin - Professor of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University.

So the issue of cow-stress is both an economic one and a humane one. 

Dr. Grandin made some amazing discoveries about what some of the factors that caused stress in cows when she entered the chute, holding her head at the level of a cow, and noticed what she saw (as a cow would see it).  Thus she was able to determine that there were visual distractions that confused and frightened the cows so much that they refused to enter the squeeze chute for their inoculations.  When these simple distractions were removed, the cows now willingly walked into the chute, saving time, and reducing immune-compromising stress factors.

Dr. Temple Grandin was able to make major changes in how livestock is treated because she could see things from the perspective of the cows.  Using empathic observational methods she developed a kinder and more effective method to redesign how to get the cows to approach the chute.

In another situation, where the cows were being too frightened and stressed to enter the chute for their inoculations, she determined that they were disturbed by loose chains, red rags or the dramatic shift in lighting between the outside and the entrance to the chute. 

​​Dr. Grandin had the insight to do this because as an autistic person, she is very visually oriented, and deals with high levels of fear arousal herself.  She was able to translate her own perspective in ways that allowed her to perceive the situation as the cows did.  She saw the chute as they cows did.  This allowed her to correct a previously unsolvable problem in minutes and allowed the cows to navigate the situation easily.

Using an emotion that animals feel -- empathy -- (as we will read in the lecture of the work of Frans De Waal) -- we can gain greater insight as to the thoughts, feelings and reactions of animals using both objectivity and compassion.  This will result in better understanding and better treatment of all animals in a variety of settings. 

This is the one of the goals

of this course, to strengthen understanding of the animal's point of view and make changes that would improve the quality of their lives.

Half of the US cattle facilities have now been designed according to Dr. Grandin's understanding about how to reduce stress in animals.

Once we understand the world from the animal's point of view, we can begin to design systems to improve the quality of their lives.

"I don't know if people will ever be able to talk to animals the way Doctor Doolittle could, or whether animals will be able to talk back.  Maybe science will have something to say about that.  But I do know people can learn to "Talk" to animals and to hear what animals have to say, better than they do now."


Dr. Temple Grandin  -

Animals in Translation

Genie Joseph, PhD

Executive Director

The Human-Animal Connection


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