Safe & Secure
Two experts share tips on how to keep us humans, as well as our livestock, out of harm’s way.
By Richard Banks | Photos By Tharran E. Gaines
On many farms, ranches and farmsteads,spring heralds the arrival of baby four-legged critters. And with the birthing season comes extra work, not to mention a few additional hazards, which is all the more reason to review livestock safety.
We asked two experts for their thoughts on the subject: Dr. William Morrissey, a food animal veterinarian and member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, who practices in and around Marengo, Ill.; and John Southall, whose family owns and operates a 1,300-head cattle ranch and the Massey Ferguson® dealership, Glenwood Equipment in Glenwood, Ark.
Here’s what we learned from them:
Facilities: In addition to stalls, pens and fences to contain your livestock, you’ll also need facilities and a plan to handle animals when they need medical attention, such as during birth or when they’re sick.
Escape: Always know the location of exits in animal holding facilities, Southall says, and never let an animal, especially intact males, or expectant or new mothers, come between you and that exit. If you need to escape from a charging animal, take a tip from rodeo clowns, says Morrissey, and change directions every few steps as you make your way to safety. Most large, four-legged animals can’t change directions as fast as humans, but they will have a better chance of catching you if you run in a straight line.
No Surprises: When working with animals, especially those that are confined, let them know where you are at all times, either by touching or by talking to them.
Children: When introducing children to livestock and chores that involve them, Morrissey says err on the side of caution. Start them out with relatively safe tasks and always with adult supervision. He also suggests asking your large animal vet for help in teaching children about livestock safety. “We have a better grasp of communicating the dangers,” he says.
Health Care: When an animal separates itself from the group or isn’t eating normally, these are usually signs it needs medical attention.
Protective Gear: Those who work with livestock should wear gloves and sturdy shoes with non-slip soles.
Equipment: Make sure all lights, flashers and your horn are operational, and hydraulics are leak free. Remember, too, says Southall, to shut your tractor doors, which are nearly all glass on newer models and hard for animals to see. “The framework’s pretty small around the glass, and that causes [the animals] to bump into the doors,” often times doing damage to the tractor and themselves.
Resources for Livestock Care
National Ag Safety Database: The NASD offers “Safety With Farm Animals” from the Farm Safety Association.
American Veterinary Medical Association: See their Livestock Industry Resources.
National Safety Council: Download this document titled “Livestock Handling.”
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