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Video: A bull is not the most dangerous animal on your farm

Livestock safety tips

Whether you work alone or as part of a team on a farm, safety when dealing with livestock is of utmost importance. That is according to Jamie Cahill of Kildalton Agricultural College, who recently discussed farm livestock safety as part of this year’s virtual Farm Walk and Talk.

Agriculture accounts for almost one-third of workplace fatalities each year in Ireland. He highlighted the accidents that occur each year on Irish farms.

“When looking at fatalities on Irish farms that involve livestock, you might initially think a bull is the most dangerous animal on the farm. In reality, this is not the case.”

“As we can see from the figures, over the almost 10 years, 31% of deaths on farms caused by livestock, were caused by cows.”

Cows calving

Jamie highlighted the change in cow’s behaviour after calving and encouraged farmers to be aware of this as it can be dangerous.

“Cows are most dangerous around calving time. There are a number of reasons for this. Up until the point of calving the cow’s priority is to keep herself save from harm and to eat enough to keep herself healthy.”

“Once the cow calves down or begins to calf down, there is a hormonal change in her body. Her priority now changes to protecting her calf from any potential danger at all costs.”

“How many times have you heard someone tell the story of a near-miss with a cow and that she was the quietest cow in the yard?”

“That is because the nice, quiet cow that you are standing beside only a few hours ago, might now have become a very dangerous and unpredictable animal since you saw her last, as she has started labour or she has just calved down.”

Livestock safety tips: How to minimise the chances of a farm accident happening: 
  • Firstly, never turn your back on a cow/ cow and calf;
  • Never come between a cow and her calf. If you need to tend to the calf, separate the calf from the cow. Always keep a gate between you and the calf;
  • Having good facilities is essential – “A good calving gate is not very expensive. It is definitely no way near as valuable as you or a family member’s life.”
  • Always have an escape route.
Good handling facilities

Furthermore, Jamie expressed the need for farmers to be always aware of safety around livestock not just during calving season.

“Every year, farmers are injured or killed handling cattle while doing routine jobs such as dosing, weighing or TB testing. Again, having good facilities will make these tasks much easier and safer.”

“Simply leaving a small space between gate posts as an emergency exit could be the difference between a near-miss and a funeral.”

Stress-free environment

Jamie outlined how having a stress-free setup/reducing stress on animals usually makes it easier to predict their behaviour.

Reducing stress on the animal and farmer, therefore, decreases the chance of an accident/injury occurring.

“Keep animals calm, by firstly remaining calm ourselves. Even when things go wrong and not rushing animals. A good crush with a funnelled entrance makes loading the crush much easier and less stressful. Once the crush is loaded, restrain the animal properly. This will actually reduce the stress on them.”

“If an animal has space to move backwards or forwards while you attempt to dose or inject them, this will not only cause them to become stressed. There is also a chance of the farmer getting struck. This is where a good headgate and head scoop are a vital piece of equipment.”

“Strangers/visitors can also have an impact on animal behaviour. The appearance of a vet for a TB test or emergency call-out could be enough to make an animal feel stressed. So, we must exercise even more caution during these times.”

Point of balance
Jamie feels an animal’s point of balance is an extremely important factor to bear in mind when working with them to keep a stress-free and safe working environment.

“The point of balance is like an imaginary line across an animal’s front shoulder. When a person walks towards their head the animal will move backwards. When a person walks towards their tail, the animal will move forward.”

“This is extremely important to know and keep in mind when loading animals in a crush.”

“If someone is standing in the wrong position, it will stress animals out, as they are being forced to move against their natural point of balance, which may cause unpredicted behaviour, such as trying to jump the crush,” Jamie concluded.

Video on livestock safety tips:

You can find more farming tips and advice, here.

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