8 steps to stay safe when dealing with newly calved cows

The risks a cow with a new-born calf can pose are well known, but there are practical steps that can be taken to minimise the possibility of being injured if an animal does turn nasty.

Beef specialist Dr Basil Lowman of SAC Consulting shares his top eight tips.

1. The vast majority of attacks on stockmen are by cows which they have often regarded as docile, says Dr Lowman.

The ill-natured animals in a herd tend to be well known and treated with respect, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the quieter ones.

2. Often calving pens with sheeted gates or solid walls can be impossible to climb if the cow gets between them and the front gate. However, a simple thing like tying a water-filled five gallon drum in the back corner as a step up to get over the gate can be a life saver.

3. Ensure all gates are hung to ideally leave a gap below of around 1½ft (45cm) so it is possible to crawl underneath.

4. The ideal is always to have two people present to deal with newly calved cows, although with large numbers of cows calving around the clock it is often difficult.

5. Fencing off a corner of the pen with a firmly fixed strong gate/feed barrier is worth considering to provide a refuge until help arrives. If working outside it advises using a cow catcher, which can be used to separate a cow and calf or, in some models, provide a safe restraint to calve a cow.

6. Always carry a mobile with the first number being someone who can immediately come to help.

7. Watch the cow’s body language. Never go in with a cow if she is holding her head low to the ground and shaking it from side to side with her ears back.

8. If you are alone then try and distract the cow away or drive into the pen with a tractor, preferably a loader tractor carrying a bale of straw to push the cow away.

* Have you got other practical tips that you use on your own farm? Share them with rhian.price@rbi.co.uk