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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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The dos and don’ts of livestock handling facilities

Livestock handling facilities

Take action to prevent livestock-related injuries on your farm – that is the main message the HSA and the Farm Safety Partnership, alongside Teagasc and FBD, are conveying to farmers as part of a new digital campaign.

The bodies have produced a series of short videos containing industry-leading life-saving advice covering livestock handling, farmer’s health, sheep farming, chemicals, children, slurry handling, harvesting and farm machinery.

In the livestock safety video, the partners outlined that well-designed cattle handling facilities based on animal behaviour principles are “essential” on every farm with cattle.

They help to minimise stress on the animal and make cattle handling tasks easier and safer.

According to the spokesperson, the handling facility should fit in with your day-to-day activities “seamlessly”.

In brief, cattle handling facilities should be well-designed, well-maintained, and safe.

Moreover, animals should remain relaxed and calm as they flow to the handling unit from sheds, the yard, or external fields.


  • Avoid blind 90-degree corners;
  • Favour curved or angled corners to help cattle see where they are going;
  • Large collecting area – ensure cattle are not packed too tightly;
  • At least one smaller pen for sorting cattle adjoining the collecting area – lead directly to the crush or onto another small pen leading to a crush;
  • Pen should be no more than 3m wide – this is the maximum width a handler can control to prevent cattle passing.
Sorting pens
  • Install a barrier in the corner of square pens to avoid cattle bunching;
  • Funnell cattle to crush to reduce the likelihood of bunching at the entrance;
  • One side of the funnel should be curved or line with the crush;
  • The other should come out at a 30-degree angle (allowing for the standard crush to open)
  • Sheeting on the side of panels – reduce external distractions and encourage animals to move forward;
  • Strong materials – Steel should be strong enough to take the full pressure of a group of adult male animals;
  • Handling facilities should be high enough, at 1.4m.
Crush and anti-backing bar:
  • Crush: Heavy-duty gates that can be opened individually to release animals if necessary.
  • Anti-backing bar or a sliding gate set up circa 2.5m back – restrict movement;
  • Secure and well-maintained restraining gate must be secure and well-maintained;
  • A pen for drafting – for animals as they leave the crush;
  • Crush: Wide foot stand for working along the crush
  • Non-slip, solid surfaces – crush floors and pens.

Read our article on the dos and don’ts of handling cattle.

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