Farm safety for livestock

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Personal protective equipment

Dressing properly when handling livestock is an essential step to protecting yourself and others. There are 26 bones in the human foot, all which can easily be crushed if stepped on by an animal, whether a 200 pound hog or a 2,000 pound bull. Be sure to invest in a sturdy pair of work shoes or boots with steel toe caps to prevent foot and ankle injuries. Non-skid soles can also combat uneven or wet footing, common to livestock facilities.

Wearing gloves when working with animals is necessary to protect hands from vaccinations and chemicals, feces or diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. This includes wearing surgical gloves when vaccinating or operating on animals, and cotton or leather gloves when working or loading livestock for transportation.

Working with and feeding livestock tends to stir up dust into the air. "Farmer's lung" is one of the most immobilizing diseases among farmers, specifically dairy farmers. Farmer's lung is caused by inhaling the dust from moldy forages or grains usually hay. Depending on the amount, type and length of exposure, all dust can cause health issues for all those working in it.

Farmer's lung symptoms are often undetected for several hours after exposure. However, some dust carries antigens that begin to cause severe irritation to the lungs and respiratory system. The irritation is often confused with symptoms for bronchitis or pneumonia. If not treated quickly, the irritation can cause irreversible lung damage and possibly death. Wearing a dust mask when working with animals will keep the harmful dust out of your lungs.


Falls account for 18 percent of all animal-related accidents. Clear facilities and work areas of tripping hazards such as uneven walking surfaces, high door sills and disorderly alleyways and chutes to reduce time and labor requirements and to decrease risk of injury.

Animals, domestic or wild, can be a cause of human illness. There are several diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. In indoor and confinement facilities, flooring should allow water to drain with ease. Slatted flooring allows the facility to be cleaned quickly and efficiently to eliminate chemical and animal waste.

Fencing and panels must be kept in peak condition when working with crowded and/or excited livestock. A rusty nail or loose bolt can cause injury to farmers, as well as livestock, if rubbed against and could quickly create an infection. Repair all holes in pens before putting animals in a confined space, and be sure all pens, alleys, and chutes will permit animals to pass through without causing injury to their heads, backs, and sides.

Calm and deliberate actions

Animals are calm and work well when they have an established routine to their day. Having the same feeding, milking or grooming time each day will tame an animal, and they will behave calmly. Animals sense their surrounding differently than humans. They have difficulty accurately judging distances, so one quick movement can easily spook them.

Livestock have extremely sensitive hearing and can hear sound pitches that humans often cannot hear. This is why loud noises scare animals, and high frequencies can also hurt their ears. When paired with unknown surroundings, loud noises will cause animals to be edgy and uneasy.

Animals can sense when someone is scared or nervous around them. It's important to show the animal respect, not fear. Because of their size and weight, they can be dangerous without intending to be. When working with animals, move slowly and lightly touch them to encourage them to move, instead of shoving or hitting them. And never prod an animal when it has nowhere to run. If you have to, always plan an escape route when working in close quarters with animals.

Extreme caution around males

It is a natural instinct for a male animal to be extremely territorial. They are determined to protect the area they feel belongs to them, including other animals in their herd and the pasture where they live. Take extra caution during feeding times, and stay out of the animal's way as much as possible.

If you cannot avoid the animal, watch for signs of aggression or fear for possible danger. Warning signs include: raised or pinned ears, raised tail or hair on the back, bared teeth, snorting and pawing at the ground.

Always leave yourself an escape route when animals get aggressive.

Extreme caution around offspring

Nothing can be more dangerous than dealing with a mother and her newborn. Most animals tend to be aggressive while protecting their young, so it's necessary to be extra careful around newborn animals. Allow the mother time to get used to her baby before getting too close, unless there is a health concern that must be addressed immediately.

Be sure to watch for signs of aggression for possible danger and always leave yourself an escape route when animals get aggressive.

Monitor entry

Disease can spread like wildfire through animals and facilities. Sales and service personnel always have the potential to carry diseases from other farms. It's important to monitor all entries to contact with animal. Create sanitary stations at entry points to facilities for workers and guests to clean their shoes and hands before entering, or offer protective equipment to wear while inside.

Transporting animals in trailer

It is important to run a safety check on your trailer before taking off to your destination with an animal. Be sure every door is easily shut, to prevent overloading the weight limit on the trailer, also allowing the animals to have space and not overheat. Make sure all latches, chains and hooks are intact and functional at each entry point to the trailer. If the trailer has wood floorboards examine them to be sure there isn't any rotting or holes in the floor.

Once you have secured the trailer itself, investigate the towing vehicle, whether tractor or truck. Insure the trailer hitch is properly attached to the vehicle and the trailer jack is raised off the ground to prevent equipment damage. After the trailer is hooked to the towing vehicle, make sure all of the lights work and are correctly connected to the vehicle to ensure the safety of the animals, driver and others on the roads.

When transporting animals, it is essential to allow plenty of time to arrive at your destination. Too often do accidents occur when actions are hurried and careless. Start early and give yourself plenty of time throughout the process to make it less stressful, for you and the animals.