The dos and don’ts of handling cattle
“You have to be careful with every type of animal; there is no safe animal” – that is the key message Teagasc’s Brendan Caslin has conveyed in his appeal to farmers to exercise safety when handling livestock.
During a Teagasc Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal webinar, he said that “every year, farmers and family members are killed or maimed by cattle”.
“Every month, hundreds on-farm are injured by cattle. Every day, there are countless ‘near misses’ in handling cattle. These are the problems that happen on every farm that are not reported in the media but are very, very important.”
According to the HSA, deaths due to livestock accounted for 19% of all fatalities from 2011-to 2020.
Of the 39 deaths:
- Cattle: 14;
- Cow: 12;
- Bull: 7;
- Horse: 3;
- Bullock: 2
- Heifer: 1.
Caslin said that “dangerous situations involving cattle are almost entirely avoidable – you or a family member don’t need to become a statistic”.
“It might mean very simple changes on your farm, such as spending money on safety solutions on-farm. The key message is that a lot of accidents and deaths on farms are avoidable.”
When handling cattle always:
- Ensure handlers are competent and agile;
- Try to keep cattle calm when handling them;
- Work out an escape route or refuge in advance of working with cattle;
- Know and understand the basics of cattle behaviour;
- Remember that cows or heifers are ‘on-heat’ are unpredictable;
- Use bulls that produce docile offspring;
- Use a stick to assist in directing cattle – do not beat;
- Watch for warning signs of animal aggressiveness, especially bulls and freshly-calved cows;
- Cull fractious and difficult cattle as soon as possible. Exercise caution administering veterinary treatments;
- Wear suitable protective clothing and footwear;
- Use well-designed facilities;
- Regularly check and maintain facilities such as your crush, gate latches and fences;
- Keep ground surfaces clean as far as possible to avoid tripping hazards.
- Put an inexperienced handler or child at risk with cattle;
- Handle cattle or get others to handle them if there is a lack of competence and confidence to do the work safely;
- Turn your back on a bull or trust a bull; no matter how docile he may appear;
- Stress or arouse cattle unnecessarily;
- Keep dangerous cattle;
- Suddenly enter the animal’s ‘blind spot’;
- Never rush into the animal’s ‘flight zone’;
- Beat or shout at cattle unnecessarily – they remember bad experiences;
- Move cattle on a public road at night.
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