Proper Cattle Restraint for Stunning

by Temple Grandin

Updated September 2018

New stun box design eliminates the butt pusher gate

In this design, the front assembly, which has the head holder mounted on it, rolls backward towards the animal. This eliminates pushing the animal forward. When I was in the UK, I observed this design at a beef plant and it worked really well. The animal can stand still. If the entire assembly rolls backwards with a smooth, steady, slow motion, there will be very little reaction from the animal.

Cartridge fired captive bolt gun

If a stunning box is used, it should be narrow enough to prevent the animal from turning around. The floor should be non-slip so the animal can stand without losing its footing. It is much easier to stun an animal that is standing quietly. Only one animal should be placed in each stunning box compartment to prevent animals from trampling on each other.

Stationary slanted shelf in the front of the stun box keeps the animal's head raised
Image courtesy of Humane Slaughter Association

Hinged panel to raise the animal's head
Image courtesy of Humane Slaughter Association

If either electric stunning or mushroom head (non-penetrating) captive bolt stunning is used a head holder like the one in this picture or similar to the headholders used for religious slaughter should be used. When non-penetrating captive bolt is used the aim must be exact. This requires holding the animal's head still.When penetrating captive bolt is used a good stunner operator may not need a headholder or one of the simpler shelf systems can be used.

In this head holder, a neck stanchion closes around the neck and a shlef is raised up under the animal's chin.

In many new plants a vertical sliding door is used instead of the rotating door to improve safety. A solid vertical sliding door can be placed in the same location as the rotating door. The angled concrete abutment can still be used to facilitate rollout of the stunned animal. When a vertical sliding door is used, there should be a 6 in (15 cm) gap at the bottom when the door is in the full down position to prevent the shackler's hands from getting caught. The stun box must have a non-slip floor. A grooved concrete floor provides better footing than steel diamond plate.

Pneumatic captive bolt gun

Most large plants restrain cattle in a conveyor restrainer system. There are two types of conveyor restraints, the V restrainer and the new center track system. In a V restrainer system, the cattle are held between two, angled conveyors. In the center track system the cattle ride astride a moving conveyor.

  • A very humane position for cattle. Cattle are restrained in a comfortable, upright position.

  • The center track system provides the advantages of easier stunning and improved ergonomics because the stunner operator can stand closer to the animal. Either type of restrainer system is much safer for workers than a stunning box. Restrainer conveyors are recommended for all plants which slaughter over 100 head per hour. Stunning boxes are difficult and dangerous to operate at higher speeds. In a plant which slaughtered 160 cattle per hour, replacement of multiple stunning boxes with a conveyor restrainer eliminated at least one serious accident each year.

  • Center track double rail restrainer. This system is available for both sheep and cattle.

  • Lighting in the restrainer room over the top of the conveyor will help induce cattle to raise their heads for the stunner. Cattle should not be able to see light coming up from under the restrainer because it may cause balking at the entrance. Restrainer systems should be equipped with a long, solid hold-down rack to prevent rearing. The hold-down should be long enough so that the animal is fully settled down onto the conveyor before it emerges from under it.

  • If an animal is walking into the restrainer by itself, do not poke it with an electric prod. Center rack systems require less prodding to induce cattle to enter it. Workers need to break the "automatic prod reflex" habit.

  • Animal entering the center track double rail restrainer.

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