The Top 3 Reasons Why Its Important To Sort Cattle

Farmers and ranchers sort cattle for a variety of reasons, but the end goal is to handle cattle safely. Biosecurity, vaccinations, and the separation of cows and calves for weaning are amongst the top three reasons. To sort cattle successfully, you want to understand the psychology involved in sorting cattle as well as the use of effective tools. But before you start sorting read all about Cattle Handling Basics here. 

Various best practices will also help you to reduce stress on cattle during handling times, reducing stress can greatly increase the effective function of your cattle operation and can drive up profits! US Whip recently published a blog explaining that by utilizing  5 simple ways to reduce stress when handling cattle you and reduce stress, improve safety and potentially drive up profits. 


One reason to sort cattle is for biosecurity measures. These have been implemented in the cattle industry over the past several years. They are typically designed to prevent the spreading of diseases by minimizing the movement of various biological organisms.

Disease-causing agents can often be transferred between animals via saliva, urine, and feces. Cross-contamination of bodily fluids can be controlled between animals as well as animals to feed along with animals to equipment.

Biosecurity involves three major components: isolation, traffic control, and sanitation. You will need to implement effective cattle herding techniques into your practices so that you can exercise traffic control effectively. This includes being able to sort cattle from other animals that may be on the ranch as well as isolating specific groups of cattle, especially the new ones that enter your ranch prior to being tested for any disease-causing agents.

In order to maintain and manage biosecurity, you will want to establish cleaning areas as well as a decontamination policy, specifically with the tires of vehicles that enter your operational areas.


Another common reason to sort cattle is to vaccinate. It’s important for you to establish a vaccination schedule that works for your herd. Your goal should be to prevent the diseases that are most devastating and prevalent in your region.

Often, cattle ranchers avoid using antibiotics and drugs so that they can produce organic meat and milk. However, vaccinations are a critical tool to keep your livestock healthy and eliminate the need for antibiotic treatments.

Diseases may pop up in the form of insects, wildlife, or even bacteria spores. Vaccines will prevent these diseases and should be included within your herd health plan. It’s a good idea to discuss vaccination programs with your veterinarian to determine which diseases you should be worried about as well as how often you should vaccinate.

Once a vaccination plan is established, you may need to sort cattle based upon which ones are getting vaccinated at a particular time. This will likely be established based on the age of your cattle, with younger ones getting more vaccines than the older ones.

Separating Cow and Calf Pairs for Weaning

The most common reason is sorting cattle from calves. This is simply separating calves from their mothers when the weaning process is over. The goal is to do this quickly and cleanly. Calves will naturally wean themselves at around 10 months old. However, the farm calves will commonly be weaned at six months old. On dairy farms, the weaning process happens 24 hours after birth.

There are new cattle handling techniques in place to ensure safe cattle handling. It leaves the calves happier and healthier, which can also reduce stress. Weaning involves separating a mother from its young, which can be stressful for both parties. It can trigger bellowing, pacing, and weight loss.

There is a process known as “fence line” where the weaning is nose to nose. This is an effective way of separating cows and calves because the mother and calf can interact through a slotted fence but are still separated. Choosing to separate the pairs will involve a significant amount of sorting while being humane and focusing on stress levels.

By being more aware of the effects caused by weaning, it will allow you to determine what’s best for your cattle. For example, if you are a dairy farmer, you know that every drop of milk matters. However, you also don’t want to stress your calves. Gradual weaning may also be necessary, sorting your cattle periodically throughout the day or the week.

Sort as Needed

With so many reasons to sort cattle, you will want to determine not only when you will sort but how to incorporate some or all of these 5 simple ways to reduce stress when sorting cattle. It has also been a long-standing rule that sorting cattle can also bring in more money at auction. Learning how to sort effectively will ensure that you appear more in control of your cattle at the auction, resulting in a higher amount.

Ultimately, the main reason to sort cattle is that it is critical for the health of your herd and to drive up profits.  It is important when you consider all of the reasons why you should be sorting as well as the psychology, you can then begin to explore the effective tools. Check out some of the common sorting tools at U.S. Whip today.

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