More injuries are caused each year by farm livestock than by tractors or farm machinery. Poor judgement or complacency around the animals are some of the most common reasons for farm accidents, and because animals’ senses are very different to our own, it’s important to remember that you need to approach animals with caution and acknowledge their very different needs when caring for them. Follow these farm livestock safety tips when dealing with livestock to minimize your risk of having an accident or catching a disease.
• Try to develop a routine with the animals. Animals of all kinds respond well to a set routine, waking up, fed, herded and put in for the night at the same time each day. If you need to change the routine, do so gradually so as not to disorient the animals.
• Approach all animals with caution. Most animals cannot see particularly well through their peripheral vision in the same way that humans can, so if you approach an animal from the back, you might spook them. Approach from the front or from the front side of the animal so that they are aware of your approach.
• Animals have difficulty with depth and colour perception. They might also be sensitive to changes between light and dark. Shining a touch in their eyes whilst you’re dealing them during the night could well spook them. Try to set up a routine that enables them to move from light to dark slowly, or set up lights in barns so that the contrast between day and night isn’t so great. Make it easy for the animals and they’ll make it easier for you.
• Be careful not to startle the animal. Animals are sensitive to many things, light and noise in particular, so it’s important that you approach carefully and quietly and speak to the animal in low and soothing tones.
• Think about employing the services of farm animal vets. They can manage your livestock, doing everything from controlling nutrition to evaluating animals for lameness. This could take some of the pressure off of managing the animals which should mean that you’re more relaxed around the animals that you do take care of.
• Give yourself a way out. Ensure that there is no way for you to be pinned up a fence or against a wall by a startled animal and make sure that there is always room for you to get out.
• Always be extra cautious around male animals, particularly bulls. Half of fatalities are caused by bulls despite the fact that only 2% of the cattle population are bulls.
• Scatter feed in large patches and differ the pattern from day to day to avoid territorial issues. Instead of scattering in one large patch, scatter the feed across the feeding area in a number of different locations so that stronger, older animals do not start getting territorial.
• Never become complacent. Animals that usually have good temperaments could change in an instant and vice versa, so always use caution around every animal, even those that appear to have mild temperaments.