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Safe Handling of Cattle on Farms

The Teagasc National Farm Surveys have indicated that farmer injuries associated with livestock herding and handling have increased and now account for 65 per cent of all on-farm injuries. The trend of increased injuries when herding or handling cattle is attributable to the facilities used, less contact with animals arousing fear and inadequate attention being given to breeding for docility.

Teagasc, in association with the Health and Safety Authority and ICBF, are working to reduce the level of injury associated with livestock, while at the same time improving animal welfare.

The role of the Human-Animal Relationship (HAR) has been studied at Teagasc because of its important role in safety. Contact between cattle and stockpersons has decreased over the years, with increased mechanisation, increased size of herd, and the number of farmers in part-time farming, resulting in less time allocated to animals by the stockperson. 

Teagasc participated in a European Union Leonardo da Vinci livestock safety project where safety and related welfare issues of cattle handling were examined. A review was undertaken of research related to safety/welfare with cattle, particularly focussing on the work of Professor Temple Grandin of Colorado Sate University, USA. Professor Grandin is world renowned for her work on livestock behaviour and safety.

In an article in the latest edition of TResearch, the Teagasc Science magazine, Teagasc’s Safety Officer John McNamara along with Dr Mickael Mazurek, and Dr Bernadette Earley outline some of the findings of their work.

Understanding the concepts of ‘flight zone’ and ‘point of balance’ will help cattle handlers to be able to move animals more easily. The point of balance is at or near the animal’s’ shoulder and it is determined by the animal’s wide-angle vision. Animals will move forward if the handler stands behind the point of balance. They will stop if the handler stands in front of the point of balance.   

The Teagasc study of cattle reactions to humans (HAR) and a fear test were carried out. They found that fearfulness in cattle changes over time and is more related to the experience of the animals than to genetic factors. Fear of isolation is more important for animals than fear of humans.

A DVD to communicate the Temple Grandin approach to livestock handling and other important livestock safety measures has been prepared and will be shown at Teagasc Training courses and Advisory meetings and at Marts. The DVD can also be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/TeagascMedia