Pay heed to HSA guidelines for safely working with cattle and avoiding peril
The breeding season inevitably means more direct contact with animals and, with it, an increased risk to your safety.
Livestock-related incidents are the second most common cause of fatalities on farms so it is essential to beware of the safety of yourself and others. Between 2000 and 2009, 22 people were killed in livestock-related farm accidents.
Fifteen of those accidents involved a person being killed by a bull, while five were killed when they were attacked by a cow. The remaining four people died in accidents with horses and other animals.
As the Health and Safety Authority points out, dangerous situations involving cattle are almost entirely avoidable.
Here are some guidelines from the HSA for safely working around cattle:
- Never turn your back on a bull as all bulls are potential killers, even seemingly quiet bulls. Farmers and persons handling bulls must treat them with caution and respect at all times.
- A well-designed bull pen is essential to the proper management of the bull(s) when he is away from the herd. The bull pen should be located so that the bull can see other cattle and daily farm activity in the farmyard. The structure must be strong and high enough to stop him escaping.
- People handling bulls should be fit and agile and be aged between 18 and 65 years.
- The risk of attack from stock bulls running with the herd is greatest during the summer months.
- Avoid grazing a bull in a field where there is a right of way or where members of the public may have access.
- Never walk through an open field with a bull, walk along ditches where you can escape or bring a refuge such as a tractor or jeep.
- If moving a bull between fields, yards or housing, plan the work carefully to minimise stress and potential attack.
- Cows and heifers are more unpredictable during stressful periods such as calving, weaning and at their first milking.
- Suckler cows which are handled less frequently generally pose a greater risk than dairy cows.
- Cows are very protective of their calves. Several farmers have been killed by cows during or immediately after calving.
- Never turn your back on cows with newborn calves. She may perceive you as a threat and attack. A freshly calved heifer may present an even greater threat.
Farmers need to be aware of cattle behaviour and know the danger signs. A fractious animal pawing the ground, bellowing loudly, with a raised tail or lowered head could be dangerous and should be avoided.