A series of confessions before I get into the meat (sorry!) of this blog post.... I am not a farmer. I am not from a farming background, although I did spend some of my younger years on a farm for a number of summers. I do not profess to have all knowledge of this subject matter, but I would lean heavily on HSA documents to offer some thoughts about staying safe on the farm. I also recognise that cattle are big animals, bulkier and heavier than me and therefore could cause me damage - particularly if I don't give them proper respect.

Cattle in Storage Yard Cattle in Storage Yard

The HSA (Health and Safety Authority) have numerous documents published and available on their website:

Included among these is an extensive array of documents about safe Handling and Management of Cattle.

Wherever or whatever you do on the farm when dealing with cattle, care and attention will contribute significantly to you remaining safe. The HSA have published a number of guidelines ("Golden Rules") and I certainly bow to their knowledge and expertise. I cannot hope to convey the entire information and detail which they make available, I will try to point out some areas where you can think about how to avoid danger when handling your cattle. The available documents are well worth studying to help remain safe on the farm.

cattle inspection

  • Identify an escape route/refuge area
  • Know, understand the basics of cattle behaviour
  • Persons handling cattle should be competent and agile
  • Careful when cows are calving or with new-born calves
  • Try to keep cattle calm when handling them
  • A stick or paddle to assist in directing cattle
  • Watch for signs of aggressiveness, cull fractious and difficult cattle
  • Caution when administering veterinary treatments
  • Protective clothing - biohazard protection, footwear, clothing
  • Maintain facilities like crushes, gate latches, fences

The HSA documentation outlines a number of relevant locations in which the farmer will need to take care (most are very intuitive, but bear repeating) -

  • Fences and Gates fit for purpose - particularly road boundaries
  • Appropriate winter housing; Bull Housing and Calving Facilities - all should be thoughtfully organised - minimum area requirements, cattle size, security, bedding and so on. The housing for sucklers and finishing cattle has slightly different requirements as these animals have less human contact, so are more likely to cause problems - more care needed
  • Milking Parlour - because of close contact, design needs to be considered carefully. Adequate room and correct height of the kick rail are a pair of considerations
  • When loading and unloading you need to think about the facilities to be used. A suitable loading ramp to match the trailer/truck is really important to prevent animals escaping to the side of the vehicle. The HSA advises that steps should be less than 20 cm (7.5") high and the ramp angle less than 15 degrees. Non-slip surfaces and care when closing tailgates will all contribute to safe loading of the cattle
  • A Clean and Tidy Yard

Overall, within these top level pointers, there is significantly more detail available. The HSA documents I have referenced are very clear and direct, well worth reading and available at this link:
Safe Handling of Cattle

Happy St. Patrick's Day - Stay safe, bí curamach.
Joe Doherty, March 16th, 2019