Easy Cattle Handling – A Safety Guide

Jul 14 01:21 2020 Tyler Roberts Print This Article

Cattle handling is recognised as a ‘dangerous occupation’ by WorkSafe and requires a specific set of skills to operate safely in this business.

There are a number of precautions, measures and increasingly better equipment that can be employed to reduce the risk of getting hurt or injured.

Those familiar with the livestock industry and in particular,Guest Posting cattle handling, will agree that it can be a risky and physically challenging line of work. Cattle handling is recognised as a ‘dangerous occupation’ by WorkSafe and requires a specific set of skills to operate safely in this business.

If cattle handling is conducted without the right levels of understanding and adequate infrastructure, cattle can pose a fatal risk to handlers, while also compromising the wellbeing of the livestock.

There are a number of precautions, measures and increasingly better equipment that can be employed to reduce the risk of getting hurt or injured. A strong understanding of how cattle naturally behave, and modern cattle yards designed to cater to cattle’s natural instincts, will typically mean the difference between an unsafe workplace that is more stressful on staff and animals, and an efficient and safe workplace that make routine tasks easier on staff and livestock.


Avoiding the Dangers of Cattle Handling

Fight, Flight and Pressure Zones

Before entering into an area with cattle, or when moving cattle from yard to yard, an understanding of Fight, Flight and Pressure Zones are essential.

Cows have evolved to be ‘prey’ animals. Therefore, their instinctive response when they feel threatened is to try to escape. To ensure a safe and cooperative working environment with cattle, it’s imperative to have an understanding of Fight, Flight and Pressure Zones. These three zones refer to the different circumferences of space around the cow; the closest being the Fight Zone, progressing to the third – Pressure Zone. Which zone you are in, will determine the animal’s response. The ‘Pressure Zone’ is the ideal zone for moving cattle as it reduces the level of stress on the animal, thereby providing the most cooperation when moving from point A to B.

The optimal zone - The Pressure Zone, will instinctively prompt the cow to try and get away from you. When pairing this technique with an opening (yard gates), it's likely that the animal will fully cooperate and move through an opening as if it was their own idea to start with. Sound easy? Well, there is no golden rule or exact distance that constitutes the Pressure Zone, so finding the zone can sometimes be the challenge. Each animal will react differently to different distances, so it's important to be patient and take your time approaching the cattle, ensuring you're using the right amount of pressure for the specific cow. Avoid applying constant pressure as it can stress the cattle. Once the animal reacts, back off and allow them to move naturally in the direction you have provided. 

Whatever strategies you use for your approach, ensure you take your time and don't ignore signals from the cattle. The cattle will ultimately be the best indicator of their stress levels by their desire to cooperate. Use this to your advantage.


Modern Cattle Yards and Laneways

Outside of the skills required for safe cattle handling, livestock facilities and equipment play a vital role in stress-free efficiency in the movement of cattle. For example, It is known that investing in access laneways and quality cattle yards for ease of moving cattle will be a sensible investment.

Laneways should be well maintained to avoid excessive wear and tear on soles, hoof damage and well designed to prevent congestion when moving stock, including avoiding sharp turns, angles and slopes which will slow cattle flow or cause stock to hesitate or turn.

Old yard infrastructure itself can be dangerous and in comparison with modern setups can impede or restrict easy and safe flow of stock especially when drafting or loading out as well as when restraining stock for drenching, tagging, testing and weighing. The difficulty of handling stock in these environments reduces regularity of critical husbandry tasks, including management of grazing and finishing systems necessary in achieving growth targets. Moreover, arduous moving of cattle can lead to stressful handling.

Stressed stock, bruising, cuts and injuries from inadequate handling facilities, hitting or forceful handling are common causes of meat wastage. Reduced meat quality will mean reduced return on investment for livestock producers.

Regardless of the number of cattle you run, it is therefore good business to make sure adequate laneways and cattle handling facilities are in good working order, made from strong, durable materials and have a layout that is both effective in moving and handling stock which alleviates stress for both the cattle and staff involved.


Professional Livestock Equipment 

Cattle yards and equipment that reduce the need to get in the same space with the stock and allow cattle to move easily without turning, make for increased productivity and safety for all involved. Pneumatic equipment, remote controls, exterior manways, cattle crushes, weighing and auto-drafting equipment all allow for easier handling and significantly faster completion of routine tasks – in some cases, weeks of saved time.


Design Considerations for New Cattle Yards

During the design stage for new yards, there should be an array of features and safety measures that make working with cattle, in the long run, a less stressful process for the livestock and all the staff involved. For example, outside handling and walkways for the staff are a must have feature when it comes to ease of handling. This provides more control to the cattle handlers even when the laneways get too narrow, or cattle begin to pile up.

While these can pose a significant initial investment, if you amortise the cost of a good set of yards against the productivity gains over the lifetime that it lasts for, you are likely to find the overall investment will be small and returns significant.

Combining professional cattle yards and equipment, and practices that work with natural cattle behaviours to reduce stress and improve animal welfare, will provide a less stressful, less dangerous and more enjoyable working environment for all involved. The ultimate result – more time saved, greater productivity and production outcomes, less injuries and stress, all meaning more profits for you and your livestock operation.

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Tyler Roberts
Tyler Roberts

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