Drawings and text from "Restraint of Animals" with permission from Dr. John R. Leahy
Although cattle do not show the individual differences that horses or pigs do, it is still quite an art to handle these animals. One has ample opportunity to exercise his knowledge of animal psychology by differentiating between the nervous cow, the docile cow, the balker, and the chronic kicker. It is true, however, that cows do not respond to argument or reasoning as much as horses and pigs do. Usually they must be urged to do ones' bidding.
There are some things which must be kept in mind in dealing with cattle. In the first place, the dairy bulls should never by trusted. They often appear to be gentle and calm, particularly when they have been receiving regular attention from handlers. They are unpredictable, however, and it is a mistake to rely on what may appear to be their good nature. Whenever one is working with them one should be sure to have them completely restrained. Beef bulls are not apt to be as mean and angry as dairy bulls, but they are far from gentle and should be handled carefully.
Whenever beef cattle are to be restrained standing they should be place in a press or stocks. These animals are too large and strong to be easily restrained with ropes alone.
Dairy cows should be restrained as little as possible. They are used to being handled but they are excitable animals and fear the unusual. Hence they will often be upset by complicated restraints and resist them, but will submit rather calmly to simple things. Also, a cow's tail is not nearly as strong as a horse's, and these animals should never be pulled or dragged by their tails. Their caudal vertebrae could easily be dislocated by this.
Cows who are kept in dark barns are apt to be nervous. The veterinarian who steps into such a barn, therefore, should be more on his guard than he would be if he were in a well lighted, well ventilated one.
Finally, anesthesia should accompany restraint in the more painful operations. The older custom was to rely solely on ropes and other restraints to hold an animal still while an operation was being done. As cows are particularly susceptible to pain, it is only humane, as well as practical to use some sedative or anesthetic to keep a cow from struggling unnecessarily.