Handling livestock safely
January 30, 2015
Did you know that multiple serious livestock handling injuries can be caused by a single agitated animal? To reduce your risk of a livestock-inflicted injury while on the job, keep in mind the following safety tips.
Reducing Stress to Reduce Risks
Animals that are handled gently experience less stress and therefore pose significantly less danger to their handlers. In addition, animals that do not experience stress are also able to fight disease and maintain a healthy weight more easily.
- Livestock have broad, panoramic vision but very limited depth perception. Therefore, they can see all the way around them, except for the area around their noses and in the rear. To livestock, shadows appear as holes and moving distractions can cause them to be easily frightened. To avoid scaring livestock as you work with them, approach animals slowly and not directly from behind – if the animal cannot see you, it is likely to kick you.
- When working with cattle, keep in mind that the “herd instinct” is important. Cattle follow the leader and are motivated to follow each other. If a lone animal refuses to move, release it and bring it back with another group. An animal left alone in a crowded pen may become agitated and attempt to jump the fence to re-join the herd.
- While cattle have poor colour recognition and poor depth perception, their hearing is extremely sensitive compared to humans.
- Do not yell while handling or herding livestock because loud noises can cause them to become stressed easily and act violently. Knowing these characteristics, you can better understand why cattle are often skittish in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Be aware that a sudden change in colour may also cause animals to baulk.
- Calm livestock are easier to handle and move than excited animals. Animals that become agitated and excited bunch together and are more difficult to separate and sort. If this happens, allowing them to calm down for a few minutes will make them easier to handle.
- Remove flapping objects from the area while handling livestock. Unexpected moving objects like a cloth swinging in the wind or fan blades can trigger animals to baulk.
- Never chase an animal that is loose on the plant grounds. It will return to the stockyard if it is left alone. If an animal gets loose inside the plant, employees should stay quiet while one designated person either stuns it or eases it out a door.
- Do your part to keep the facility clean, in good working order and free of clutter to remove any obstacles in the event that an animal escapes or becomes out of control.
Putting Safety First
The smooth operation of our facility depends on three things: livestock behaviour, proper use of corral design and the skill and technique of the handler. Staying on guard and using the techniques discussed above will help you to stay out of harm’s way.