Ag safety awareness week: working around livestock
Montana Farm Bureau Federation is making safety a priority through the Agricultural Safety Awareness Program with March 3-9 designated as Agricultural Safety Awareness Week. Each day of the week has a theme with March 5 focusing on Livestock Safety.
Cattle, horses, pigs and other livestock are not pets and can be responsible for many injuries on the farm or ranch. In Montana, it’s calving season and that means being cautious around cows with calves whether you’re the rancher working with them or a visitor to a ranch.
“It is a natural instinct for animals to be extremely territorial,” said Bonita Cremer, MFBF Health & Safety Committee Chair. “They want to protect the area they feel belongs to them, especially when they have calves. Take extra caution during feeding times and stay out of the way as much as possible. If you need to be around the animals, watch for signs of aggression and leave yourself an escape route should the cow become aggressive.”
Cows will generally bob their heads and paw the ground when they feel threatened so watch for those behaviors and retreat before the animal becomes more aggressive.
It’s important when working around livestock to be calm and avoid quick movements. “Because of the cow’s size and weight, they can be dangerous without intending to be. When working with them, move slowly and lightly touch them to encourage them to move, instead of shoving or hitting them. Never prod an animal when it has nowhere to run.”
Have a daily routine for your animals when feeding or moving pastures. Animals are calm and work well when they have an established routine to their day. Having the same feeding time each day will help the animals become accustomed to you and they will behave more calmly. Animals sense their surroundings differently than humans. They have difficulty accurately judging distances so one quick movement can easily spook them.
Wear protective clothing including sturdy boots. Non-skid soles can help combat uneven or wet footing which is common to livestock facilities and gloves are advisable. Wearing gloves when working with animals is necessary to protect your hands from vaccinations and chemicals, feces or diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.
“Fatigue, extreme cold, deep snow, ice and cows with new calves combine to make this a dangerous time to be working around livestock,” Cremer added. “Remember the basics: stay quiet and calm when handling your cattle and ask for help when you need it. Your safety is most important.”
Follow the hashtag #KeepFarmsSafe on social media and visit Farm Bureau and the U.S. Ag Centers online to learn more. For more information and resources, visit the ASAP Facebook page.
–Montana Farm Bureau
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