Cattle acclimation involves low stress handling to encourage cohesive herd formation within the home pen, moving the herd around the pen, followed by moving cattle through the processing facility. The aim is to familiarize cattle with experiences and reinforce herd structure.
Moving calves out of their pen, through the processing facility and back to their pen helps calves know that is their home pen and that they can go back where they came from. It is best if the person acclimating calves will be responsible for checking calves on a daily basis so that calves become accustomed to that person. Training calves to walk past the person will assist later when trying to evaluate cattle health.
Differences between acclimated and non-acclimated calves are subtle but can be detected. Many people notice that acclimated calves are quieter in their home pen and when they are worked through the processing facility. Acclimated calves are calmer when in the squeeze chute but they do exit faster (probably because they know where they are going). Acclimated calve tend to have slightly better ADG (1 lb/day) at time of terminal implant compared to control calves. Acclimated calves also have lower serum cortisol levels although that did not translate to lower morbidity. However, overall mortality tends to be lower for acclimated calves.
Acclimation can be implemented with newly arrived feedlot cattle for 5-10 minutes a day (not counting acclimating through processing facility) for 3-5 days and has several beneficial impacts for cattle.