No, cows have what is referred to as panoramic vision. This means they can see things in all directions without moving their heads. They have 300° vision because they can see everything except what is directly behind them. A person approaching a cow from directly behind the animal is in a very dangerous position as the cow’s natural reaction is to kick toward the unseen danger.
Cows have poor depth perception. If there is an object on the ground or a shadow in a cow’s path, the cow will likely stop and put its head down before proceeding. When trying to move cows, stay within their field of vision and check the path of movement for any objects or shadows that may cause the cow to stop.
Certain fence and gate configurations may challenge a cow’s depth perception, making it difficult to move the animal efficiently. For example, a cow will not perceive an opening that is at a right angle to the end of an alleyway. The animal will balk at being moved in this situation.
For more information about moving cattle, click here to view the article “Beef Cattle Handling Safety.”
If you are planning to move cattle, you must first understand their “flight zone.” Understanding a cow’s flight zone will reduce stress on the animal and reduce the likelihood of injuries to you and the animal. A cow’s flight zone is similar to your personal space—it is the distance from an animal that a handler must maintain for the animal to feel comfortable. When a person enters the cow’s flight zone, the cow will move. A dairy cow that is accustomed to human interaction on a daily basis has a smaller flight zone than a beef animal out on the range (the flight zone of such an animal might be up to 300 ft).
“Point of balance” is a factor related to flight zone, and working with a cow’s point of balance will also help you move a cow more safely. The point of balance is located at the cow’s shoulder. To move a cow forward, you should be positioned behind its shoulder. If you need to move the animal backward, position yourself in front of the shoulder. Whether moving a cow forward or backward, work at the edge of the cow’s flight zone and at angle of 45° to 60° so that you stay within the animal’s field of vision.
For more information about handling beef cattle, click here to view the article “Beef Cattle Handling Safety.”