Low Stress Livestock Handling – Misconceptions

By Denice Rackley

We have been discussing low stress livestock handling techniques that open the lines of communication between you and your livestock by the way you move and respond to their movement. Understanding the Why’s of the method will enable you and your livestock to both relax and benefit from your interactions.

Our first article introduced LSLH concepts and the fact that we need to be open to thinking about and understanding livestock in a new way. Our next article discussed flight zones, pressure, and balance. We discussed the application of movement with these principles in mind. This article will dispel some common myths about LSLH.

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about LSLH. However, it’s just as important to understand what LSLH is not, in order to fully understand what it is and how to apply it.

Misconceptions of LSLH 

Misconceptions center around the thoughts that LSLH is doing the same thing slower, doesn’t involve any stress, allows animals to do as the wish, uses no pressure, and takes more time.

In reality, the truth is LSLH does apply pressure resulting in some stress to stock. The difference is proper position and relieving that pressure allows us to communicate effectively so that animals are rewarded for doing the correct thing allowing our idea to become their idea.


1.     LSLH is Simply Slower and Quieter

LSLH is NOT doing what you have always done slower and quieter. We would need to call that SLOW STRESS LIVESTOCK HANDLING.  Fast moving animals are only a concern if it is fear that’s making them move quickly because fear takes away any thought processes.

LSLH is a result of good stockmanship, proper positioning, pressure, and timing. The result is communication and thought; the stock understand and then willingly do as we ask.

 2.     LSLH Is No Stress

LSLH is not without stress, but it is up to us to minimize that stress. Stress becomes a problem when it is at a high level for a long period of time. Constant stress takes its toll, showing up as poor performance and poor health in animals, just like it does when we experience stress. 

Conventional handling tells us to apply pressure with fear and make the animals move but we haven’t been taught to relieve pressure and reduce stress on our animals. LSLH is now teaching us how to do that.

3.     In LSLH animals do as they wish

It may appear animals move as they wish because once we learn to apply the proper pressure and release that pressure, animals move easily. Our goal is to have our idea become their idea, but we indeed are the ones telling them what to do.

4.     LSLH Uses No Pressure

It’s not that no pressure is put on animals; with LSLH we learn when, where, and how to apply pressure.  Pressure results in movement. We learn to release pressure when animals do what we want. This may be more important than learning how to apply pressure.  In LSLH, we use the least amount of pressure accomplish the job.

5.     LSLH Takes More Time

LSLH, once we master the techniques, will actually result in livestock working relaxed and faster, not requiring more time as some assume. 

Animals like LSLH methods       

Bud Williams said, “When I move cattle I don’t fool around.  I’m not easy on animals. I am not hard on animals.  I just move them in such a way they like it.” 

Clear, consistent communication is what makes LSLH work.  It’s not that we move stock slowly and let them do their own thing. We work with them to establish leadership and respect, helping them relax.  We steer them by applying and releasing pressure and familiarize them with our particular management system. This pays off, when we do need to do something with our animals, they are familiar with the procedure and easily move where we need them.

Every time we are around animals, we are teaching them something. We need to be teaching them how to be relaxed and easily managed. LSLH requires us to commit to a lifelong change, in our mindset and attitude, it is not a quick fix.

LSLH teaches us to work with animals’ minds, not simply their body.

Animals need to be thinking and responding, not stressed and reacting from fear or simple instinct. We have to understand what our goals are and be confident. Learning how to communicate effectively with our movement. Positioning ourselves correctly and releasing pressure enables increased performance with less people, less time, and less stress.

 LSLH is a result of good stockmanship, proper positioning, pressure, and timing – resulting in communication the stock understand and then willingly do what we want. 

Here are a few more sites for info on LSLH
 Video  –  Chutes and Sheep for the Low Stress Shepherd   https://youtu.be/MgYp8_Eo4L8
More information from LSLH
 ONPasture articles by Whit Hibbard
Stockmanship Journal at www.stockmanshipjournal.com
Bud Williams website stockmanship.com

1 thought on “Low Stress Livestock Handling – Misconceptions”

  1. If you are working or loading cattle, and you are stressed, they will be as well. Just relax, do not shout and they will respond well.
    Bottom line, cattle are lot like, the people that own them.

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