To help to train animals to Walk-over-Weigh systems, in particular animals that are not used to other management infrastructure, such as Buffalo fly traps etc., it is really important to allow the animals sufficient time to passively adjust to the new equipment in their lives.
From our observations, it is better that they know it is their idea to engage with the infrastructure based on a good, safe first experience.
Any other aids that help speed up training must still adopt the same principle - a bad experience will deter usage of the walk-over-weigh structure and reduce future visitations, possibly resulting in welfare issues of not watering or animals not-exiting the waterpoint to return to the paddock to graze.
A simple design tip is that the longer the race is, the easier the cattle “draw” along it, similar to a race situation at a cattleyard.
It will also determine the speed at which the animals travel along the race, with short races encouraging speedy exits.
If the race is set up facing towards a waterpoint, then the cattle will passively draw along the race.
Once the animals are accustomed to the race, then it is merely a means to get to the water and they don’t feel threatened by it.
It is only then that a speargate should be added to the exit end of the race, with only 1 or 2 spears to be added at first to encourage the animals through.
As the animals become more accustomed, more spears can be added, so that eventually they are passing through at least 6 spear arms (3 aside) without fear or intimidation.
The exit from the waterpoint can have a similar set up, passively drawing the animals, when they wish to leave water.
Once all animals are using the race/s with the spears, the walk-over-weigh components can then be introduced.
The platform that has the weigh bars will only momentarily baulk the familiarised animals, particularly if the platform is rubber covered or has dirt on it giving the “trafficked” look and smell.
The concept is not new, as it has always been used to “trap” animals onto water at mustering. Longer wooden, bush rails were used to trap scrubber/feral cattle, which is still the practice today.