Reducing the risk of accidents when handling livestock
“Handling cattle doesn’t have to be dangerous and there are straightforward precautions that can keep you safe.”
Guest blogger Iwan Meirion, Chair of the Wales on-farm Health and Safety Partnership is reminding farmers of the risks associated with handling cattle.
Handling livestock is a dangerous activity. Accidents involving livestock account for a large proportion of farm fatalities. The number of injuries incurred while handling livestock has amounted to almost 1,000 over the last 10 years. Very often poor or make-shift handling facilities are to blame. Handling cattle doesn’t have to be dangerous and there are straightforward precautions that can keep you safe.
Handling cattle always involves the possibility of injury from crushing, kicking, butting or goring, and this is increased if the work involves animals that have not been handled frequently, such as those from hills or moorland, sucklers or newly calved cattle. However, proper handling systems, trained and competent staff, and a rigorous culling policy can help make sure cattle handling can be carried out in relative safety. You should never underestimate the risk from cattle, even with good precautions in place.
When handling cattle, there are three key elements to consider:
- The farmer or worker – always take into account their physical abilities, and their training or experience for this type of task.
- The equipment – this might include for example, races, crushes, loading facilities and bull-handling equipment
- The animal – its health and its familiarity with being handled should be considered.
To reduce the risk of accidents, anyone handling cattle on your farm should be:
- able to use the handling and other safety equipment provided;
- aware of the dangers when handling cattle and be supervised until they are competent;
- able to work calmly and patiently with the cattle, using a minimum of force;
- in good health and properly trained in safe working methods.
- Consider also that many of the fatal injuries involving cattle happen to older people, despite their years of experience. Always be realistic about how able someone is to do the task.
The ability of the individual is only part of the picture, and is of limited use if the facilities are not up to standard and there are animals in the herd that are known to be risky. Make sure that:
- The handling facilities are purpose built, well thought out and kept in good order;
- You do not use make-shift facilities;
- Your approach to herd management includes removal of aggressive animals and you avoid breeding from them;
- You take account of other factors that may make the animals less predictable such as separation from calves, and the effect of any other disturbance to the herd.
If you feel that health and safety training would help reduce the risks within your business, this is available from training groups, colleges and individual training providers. For advice on training contact Lantra on 01982 552646.