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Handling livestock safely

Working with livestock, and cattle in particular, will always involve hard work and great risk. Especially in the winter, looking after livestock can be extremely exhausting and a large number of the injuries sustained by farm workers each year come as a result of incidents involving animals.

Injuries can also result in farmers being unable to work for months, which can threaten their entire livelihoods.

To prevent tragedy, you can use the following safety information which has been compiled by the HSENI:

Always make sure to plan ahead

The HSENI stresses the importance of planning ahead when working with animals, taking everything from the type of animals you’re working with to possible escape routes if things go wrong into account.

If livestock are unrestrained, it’s advised that you always check there’s a safe place you can reach easily and quickly if the animal becomes aggressive. The risk is greater if the animals have not been handled frequently, while bulls and recently calved cows need extra care.

Certain tasks like veterinary work can make livestock agitated or stressed, which can in turn increase risk, while the HSENI says it’s important to have the right equipment for the job in order to get tasks done quickly, easily and with as little distress caused to the animal as possible.

Finally, anyone working with or regularly exposed to livestock should be trained and competent, while children or inexperienced handlers should never be put at risk with cattle.

Are your handling facilities up to scratch?

Every farm that handles cattle should have well-maintained facilities which are up to the job and kept in good working order. These can be expensive but will last for many years and considering the potential business consequences of injury can cost less than an accident.
Floor surfaces should be slip-resistant.

Gates should be able to be fully opened against a pen wall, while collecting pens, forcing pens and race equipment should be designed to allow cattle to move which protecting workers from being crushed.

The HSENI says farm workers should never attempt to treat or work on any animal which is held by gates alone or which is free to move at will.

Managing bulls and aggressive cattle

The hazards of bulls are well documented, but the risks can be reduced by ensuring that bulls are well used to human interaction from an early age, and have learned to associate people with feeding, grooming or exercise.

The HSENI advises that all bulls should be ringed at 10 months old, that farm workers should never enter a bullpen while the bull is loose and that safety signs should be put up at the entrance of any building in which a bull is kept.

Cattle which are known to be aggressive or difficult can also pose major risks, as animals that have attacked once are likely to do so again.

According to the HSENI, culling aggressive cattle at an abattoir is the best way to ensure safety, and that dangerous cattle should never be sold through a mart or directly to other farmers.

Take steps to prevent the spread of disease

Where appropriate, livestock should be vaccinated to protect against diseases. However, people are also at risk of catching diseases passed from animals and so farm workers should always wear suitable protective clothing when handling animals, the HSENI says.

It’s also vital to maintain good personal hygiene and to always wash and dry your hands before eating, drinking or smoking while working with livestock.

Livestock Safety Dos

Livestock Safety Don’ts

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