Recent incidents involving cattle killing stockmen have once again highlighted the need for proper and secure handling facilities, particularly when tagging suckler calves.

Basic calf tagging safety advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) acknowledges that every farm situation is different. For “one-man band” cattle farmers, HSE strongly advises against working alone, instead co-operating with neighbours or seeking assistance from some other experienced and fit person.

Also, try to ensure a robust, protective barrier, between cow and humans. When indoors, take the calf behind a secured, protective gate, or contain the cow in a handling facility, such as a crush, recommends HSE.

For outdoor herds, where appropriate, a tractor-mounted cow-catcher, or a high-sided pen close to a feeding area, should be used to separate cows and calves and hence increase the safety of those tagging calves.

Valuable protection

NFU Scotland vice-president Nigel Miller, who runs 150 cows on his Selkirkshire farm, believes a vehicle can offer valuable protection. “I appreciate that by taking a vehicle into a field, you attract a group of animals. However, from my own experience I know that by rolling under a Land Rover, you can escape a cow.

“And while the recently announced decision to allow registration after 27 days with DNA proof, from 6 April onwards, is a step in the right direction, the risks would be greatly reduced if the calf could be released after the first tag.

“Often a restrained calf calls out to its mother and by the time the farmer has got a second tag organised, the cow may have decided to attack,” reckons Mr Miller.

But complacency can sometimes be the biggest danger it’s often the more experienced and confident farmers who are hurt, he adds.