5 ways to make stock handling safer
Livestock being moved around a property can become unsettled, and that can be dangerous. Here’s five ways you can keep things under control.
Words: Nadene Hall
1. KEEP CATTLE CALM
When cattle are alarmed or over-excited, they can get dangerous. That’s why keeping them calm is one of the most important rules of good cattle handling. Giving cattle time to settle down is a particularly good idea after you’ve just moved them into the yards. After about 30 minutes, they’ll be a lot easier, and safer, to work.
2.KEEP AN EYE ON WHAT’S GOING ON AROUND YOU
When you’re fronting up to a difficult animal, it’s easy to lose track of what the other cattle are doing. You need to keep looking around, so you’re aware at all times of what’s going on.
3. USE YOUR VOICE
Good stock handlers are constantly using their voice to soothe and calm, to assert authority, and to let the cattle know where the handler is.
4. MAKE THEM KNOW WHO’S BOSS
Humans are one of three things to cattle – a predator to run away from, a “nobody” to ignore or a dominant figure to be respected. You need to show confidence and authority right from the start, or you’ll have trouble. Carry a length of alkathene pipe (a ‘waddy’) or a long stick. It makes you look bigger, as does standing on a raised catwalk or riding on horseback. Stand front-on with your pipe outstretched to look domineering and positive. If you need to take the heat of the situation and reduce the pressure, turn side-on and put the pipe or waddy down. If you are in a tight corner, a sharp whack across the nose (avoid the eyes) can work wonders.
5. CHECK THE YARDS BEFORE WORKING THEM
If you’re not used to the yards, check the layout and how things work before taking cattle in. Remove stray posts, timbers, containers and large stones from pens and the race, to prevent tripping and minimise distraction. Check the headbail is working smoothly and is adjusted for the size of cattle you’re working.
Any animal with testicles should be regarded as dangerous. It doesn’t matter if you know the animal, if it’s never put a foot wrong; a full-grown male animal will be heavy, territorial and not out to make friends. The worst are hand-raised animals like bulls and rams who have been taught to have no natural fear of humans. Every year several farmers will die or be seriously hurt by a bull. Even an angry ram can do you serious damage, or worse could easily kill or hurt a child. Never take any chances.
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