Quick guide on improving safety around livestock
1. Plan: Think about how you are going to do something and what equipment you will need to do it. It is always important to consider the risk factors associated with a job that might include the presence of unfamiliar people i.e the vet, mixing of animals, or breeding/birthing periods. Remember most animals are reacting out of fear, they do not perceive things the way you do, therefore its your job to minimise this and make it easier for them and therefore yourself.
2. Plan B: Always have a plan B for when things don’t go to plan! Particularly when working with cattle, a plan B should include an escape if things go wrong. Make sure you have multiple clear exits and some form of protection at all times.
3. Invest: Investing in good handling systems is never expensive. You cannot put a price on your own safety but the vet can probably put a large one on animal that is injured..!
4. Time: Anyone who’s ever dealt with livestock knows that stock work at their own pace. Putting enough time and manpower aside for each job really is the quickest way to get it done.
5. Patience: All livestock appreciate quiet and calm handling. If they have a negative experience they are likely to remember the handler/situation and be reluctant to cooperate again in the future.
6. Train: Adequate training for yourself or your employees is critical to ensuring staff safety. Even young children should be made aware of how to stay safe on the farm and what to do in an emergency.
7. Common sense: When keeping your own replacements, culling bad tempered animals and only keeping heifers from docile cows is a no brainer. Equally bulls should be ringed from a young age to ensure safe handling. Beware new calved cows and working rams/bulls.
8. Prevent: Less obvious risks on farm are usually zoonotic diseases. Ensure good hygiene and hand washing facilities are always available. Pregnant women should avoid newborn lambs.
9. Communicate: Make sure all staff are aware of any changes of circumstance i.e housing, illness, calving etc. and ensure signposts are used on footpaths to make the public aware of bulls/cows and calves in the fields.
10. Be aware: Do not get complacent, even around ‘friendly’ animals. Always watch animals closely for signs of aggression. This is particularly relevant when cattle are out grazing.
For more information, see Government guidance on farm health and safety.