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Stay safe with Cattle this summer


With cattle out grazing and breeding season at full steam on many farms it is important to keep a focus on safety with livestock. Interactions with cattle are necessary so each interaction must be planned and managed carefully to avoid risk. Francis Bligh, Teagasc Health & Safety Specialist advises

Mobile Phone

Before leaving the house it is important to think about the type of clothing and footwear required for the weather and the jobs to be done. Always carry a mobile phone as it will provide a means of easily seeking help when needed.  Stay alert- don’t be distracted by your mobile.

Man Animal Relationship (MAR).

It is important for cattle to be familiar with humans. This can be achieved by walking through the herd calmly and making low level sounds only. Shouting, banging or hitting animals will cause animals to become nervous of humans and react in dangerous ways. 

Field gates and fences

Field gates and fencing should be in a good state of repair. Cattle should move around the farm and into sheds and holding pens in a calm and relaxed fashion. As ground conditions are good at the moment this is an ideal time of the year to do some work on maintaining fences and gates. .

Tidy Farmyard

When animals are moving around the farmyard or through pens it is important that these areas are tidy and clean. Make sure any damaged gates and pillars are repaired or replaced. Items like feeders and troughs should be stored safely away from cattle pens and main routes. Do not rush as slips, trips and falls are very common when moving livestock.

Planning tasks

Materials (dosing gun and products) needed for tasks should be organised and calibrated before animals are brought in. Think about the product options before purchase with safety in mind. Reducing the time animals remain in the pen will reduce their stress levels and help you to get through the task more easily. When tasks are demanding is important to make the decision to get help.

Routine animal husbandry

When large groups of animals need to be brought in for husbandry tasks it is important to check facilities first. They must be secure and appropriately sized for the number and type of animals. There should be pens available to reduce down the number of animals into more manageable groups. The working side of the race area should be free of animals when working on animals in the race. It is important to always have a paddle or stick to help direct cattle and have an escape route planned.

To learn more about safe cattle handling unit design watch this short video with Michael Fitzgerald, Teagasc

Try to reduce shadows, dark areas or moving items in pens as these can frighten animals.

To find out more about how cattle see the world watch Flight Zone & Point of Balance video below 

TAMS II Grants

The DAFM provide grant aid under the TAMSII scheme for investments which include livestock handling equipment. The rate of grant aid available is 40% but if you qualify as a young trained farmer the rate is 60%. Grant aided items include mobile handling equipment, fixed cattle handling units, cattle crushes, penning, backing gates, head gates, and head scoops.. The last known tranche of this scheme is due to close in November 2021. For more information contact your local Teagasc adviser

Listen below as Tim Hyde Teagasc specialist joins Catherine Egan to talk about TAMS on this BeefEdge podcast episode

Artificial insemination

Good drafting gates are very helpful for reducing the stress associated with separating cows on dairy farms but this can be a more difficult task on suckler farms. It is important that appropriate handling facilities are present to pen and restrain animals. Mobile cattle handling equipment can be very helpful for this task especially on out farms.

Watch Peter Mullan, Teagasc Advisor in the short video below using a good mobile cattle handling unit

Working with bulls

When selecting a bull always think about the docility of the bull himself and docility of his offspring. Use Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) docility values to help with this.

Watch the Teagasc video Breeding for Docility below

It is suggested that you use a vehicle as a mobile sanctuary if you enter a field with a bull. Alternatively, always have an escape route planned – such as staying close to an electric fence that you can slide under.   Nobody wants to get into a situation where they are charged by a bull or any other animal, such as a suckler cow with a calf at foot.  However, if you find yourself  in this position, do not turn your back and run , as the animal can outpace you,  stand and face the animal and spread  your arms and anything  you are holding out wide as this is likely to halt the animals charge. 

 “Beware of Bull” Warning signs should be placed at the entrance to fields. Always keep a safe distance and if a bull displays signs of aggression remove them from the herd.  ‘Danger Livestock present’ should also be posted at entrances where members of the public can access lands.

Find out more about Bull safety here

Men's Health Week

Finally don't forget that this week is Men’s Health Week (Monday 14 - Sunday 20 June) you might like to read Promoting Farmers Health - Men’s Health Week (Monday 14 - Sunday 20 June)

If you liked this article you might also like to read Teagasc Supports Men’s Health Week

Teagasc Health & Safety Specialists are regular conrtibutors to articles on here on Teagasc Daily.  Find more here on Farm Health & Safety