Farm safety campaign focuses on livestock handling

Safer working practices are vital to reduce the number of people killed in accidents involving livestock, farmers have been told.

Incidents involving farm animals are second only to transport when it comes to fatal injuries in the agricultural workplace, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive.

See also: Tips on designing races and handling cattle

Of 33 farm fatalities in 2017-18, eight involved livestock, it warned.

This week, beef farmer Brendan McLaughlin explained how he was lucky to escape with his life after his leg was crushed by a cow.

“I learnt that day that you should never trust any animal, however docile,” he told Farmers Weekly.

Fewer fatalities

The Farm Safety Partnership – a group of 38 industry organisations working to improve workplace safety – is encouraging farmers to adopt better livestock management practices as part of a year-long campaign to reduce fatalities.

Partnership coordinator and NFU farm safety adviser Tom Price said: “There is nothing inevitable about death and injury caused by contact with livestock.

“There are risks when handling livestock and the important thing to do is manage them.”

Well-designed and properly maintained livestock handling facilities are essential, said Mr Price.

He added: “A race and crush suitable for animals to be handled are must haves,” he added. “Makeshift gates and hurdles are not sufficient.”

Wider benefits

Having proper facilities are good for other reasons too, said cattle handling expert Miriam Parker.

“Good handling brings wider benefits beyond safety – such as being able to weigh livestock on a regular basis and the requirement to present cattle for testing.”

That said, proper facilities, safe practices and the effective management of aggressive animals are even more important for older farmers and farm workers.

Last year, 65% of fatal incident victims in livestock incidents were over 65. Four victims were over 80 years of age.

In one incident, an 82-year-old livestock producer – who was help a vet – was knocked over by a cow in a crush.

The cow’s head was not restrained and he was struck and fell to the ground. The farmer died from head injuries.

Mr Price said: “It may be hard to accept after a lifetime in farming but farmers must think very seriously, at any age, as to whether they still have the skills and physical ability to handle cattle safely.”

Causes of accidents involving livestock

  • Poor livestock handling equipment
  • Ineffective methods of moving animals
  • Misjudging cattle strength, speed and behaviour
  • Lack of physical ability to work with cattle