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Work Safely with Cattle

20 July 2021
Type Media Article

By Martina Donnelly, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare

Recently while working with a farmer to design a cattle handling facility for a TAMS application the conversation turned to why the farmer was now applying for this. They mentioned that there had been a number of near misses when handling and herding cattle on the farm over the years and given that they were mainly working on their own, it was time to construct a safe animal handling unit.

Well designed and maintained handling facilities are essential for the safe handling of cattle and prevention of injury to handlers. Facilities where cattle are handled should match the types and numbers of cattle present. Many accidents involving cattle could be eliminated with better handling facilities. Well planned animal handling facilities can ensure that necessary work such as testing cattle, tasks such AI and other routine treatments are carried out in a stress free manner for both the farmer and the animals and provide for a high level of control and safe access when working with stock.

Under TAMS both permanent and temporary cattle handling facilities can be applied for. Depending on eligibility grant aid is available at 40% or 60% up to the maximum investment ceiling of €80,000 per holding. Under TAMS, unroofed enclosure, walls, barriers gates, race and skulling, back gates, calving gates, head scoops and leg hoists maybe applied for. The siting of these should be carefully considered so that they work best for the farmer within the farmyard or on an out farm.

Under TAMS, the eligible area of an animal enclosure is limited to a maximum of 2m2 per bovine on the holding. So, on a farm with 40 animals, TAMS II will grant aid at least 80 m2 of an enclosure. To qualify for grant aid, you will need planning permission or a declaration of exemption for unroofed animal enclosures from the county council. In planning farmyard facilities, the inclusion of an animal enclosure, crush, race and escape routes are important elements that should be considered. Grant aid for a standalone cattle crush/race in existing buildings or the replacement of an existing crush does not require planning permission. The current tranche of TAMS closes on the 23 July 2021with the next tranche opening immediately after. This tranche will close on the 5th November 2021.

The farmer had also mentioned near misses when herding cattle. At all times of the year it is important to be mindful when working with livestock.  The safety statistics relating to livestock make for sobering reading with livestock being responsible for 20% of all farm fatalities. The overall statistics for the last ten years show working with livestock is responsible for 39 farm workplace deaths on Irish farms in the last 10 years. During this period 7 deaths were caused by a bull attack, 22 by cows and heifers and 5 were associated with cattle. However non-fatal life changing injuries are often not reported on. Good and safe animal handling units are therefore a vital part of any farm.

The HSA guidance in relation to having awareness around handling and managing cattle should be foremost in your mind when handling cattle.

Golden Rules for Handling Cattle:

ALWAYS:

  1. Work out an escape route or safe area in advance of working with cattle
  2. Know and understand the basics of cattle behaviour
  3. Make sure persons handling cattle are competent and agile
  4. Use bulls that produce docile offspring, consider using Artificial Insemination
  5. Be careful around cows that are calving or with new born calves
  6. Watch for warning signs of animal aggressiveness and cull difficult cattle
  7. Try to keep cattle calm when handling them, use a stick or paddle to assist in directing cattle
  8. Debud calves early to prevent horn growth
  9. Wear suitable protective clothing and footwear and protect yourself against biohazards
  10. Be careful administering veterinary treatments
  11. Use well designed facilities (an investment in your safety)
  12. Regularly check and maintain facilities such as the crush, gate latches and fences

NEVER:

  1. Put an inexperienced handler, elderly person or a child at risk with cattle
  2. Turn your back on a bull or turn your back on a cow at calving no matter how docile
  3. Stress/arouse cattle unnecessarily
  4. Keep dangerous cattle
  5. Be aware of an animals blind spot and flight zone
  6. Beat or shout at cattle unnecessarily - they remember bad experiences.
  7. Move cattle on a public road at night

https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Publications_and_Forms/Publications/Agriculture_and_Forestry/Safe Handling_of_Cattle_on_Farms.pdf