4-H youth and their livestock can help improve the way you walk - part 1

What to look for when observing the ideal walking gait of livestock and people.

It is interesting how we can apply what we learn in school or work to other areas of our life. Take for instance evaluating and judging livestock. According to Michigan State University Extension, you may find yourself asking, what that is exactly. Well, livestock evaluation really is using observation skills to identify characteristics in livestock and then ranking the animals based on the sum of those positive characteristics. One trait that is important in selecting good livestock is how they move. An animal that can walk smooth and effortlessly is a good indicator of being structurally correct in its skeletal make up and a sign of good health and longevity.''

Now the funny thing is, that once you learn what to look for when evaluating how animals like cattle, sheep and pigs walk, you can then also start to observe and make inferences about the way people, even friends and family members, walk. In this series of articles, MSU Extension will discuss about five different things to look for in the way we walk and how each can affect the health of people and livestock.  But, before we address the areas that indicate potential problems, let’s start by talking about the ideal way to walk. According to Kristen Price, a certified athletic trainer for Playmakers, the walking gait is the correct term for our walking pattern. Basically it’s the form of our walk. Curious what you’re walking gait looks like? Feel free to record yourself walking and take a look! You might even look at your footprints in the snow or dirt next time you’re outside.

“The ideal walking gait has your toes pointed straight ahead,” Price said. Your toes (or an animal’s hooves) should be pointing straight ahead to the next destination. Look down at your feet when you walk, or your footprints in the snow. Are your feet in a fairly straight line, or are they veering to the right or left? Ideal foot placement optimizes balance, muscle control and is a one good indicator of structural soundness. If your toes point to the left or to the right a bit, then stay tuned. The next few articles will talk about those issues (yes, you or your livestock may need some work!) and the additional stress it may be causing to your body.

The next article in this series will discuss eversion or walking with your toes (or hooves) pointed slightly out and implications on physical stress and health for both you and your livestock.

Michigan 4-H members can choose to learn a lot about observation skills, making inferences, physical health and even livestock judging. If you are interested in learning more about these areas or other learning opportunities 4-H provides, visit the MSU Extension website.

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