Safety with Farm Animals
Few farm people look upon their livestock as a source of danger. However, a number of serious injuries and deaths occur every year as a result of –animal-related accidents. Agricultural specialization has changed animal handling methods in recent years. The large size of many herds makes safety awareness imperative to efficient farm operation.
Animals: How well do you know them?
Anyone who has worked with livestock realizes that each animal has its own personality. Farm animals’ senses differ a great deal from those of humans. Cattle, swine and horses see things very differently! For example, cattle have close to 360 degree panoramic vision. A quick movement behind them may ‘spook’ these animals.
Farm animals see things in black and white, not in colour. They also have difficulty judging distance. These factors explain why animals are often balky and skittish, particularly in unfamiliar surroundings.
Animals have extremely sensitive hearing and can detect sounds that our ears cannot hear. Loud noise frightens animals, and research has shown that high frequency sounds actually hurt their ears.
An appreciation of animals’ characteristics is crucial to working safely with livestock. These traits should also be considered when designing livestock facilities.
Many livestock handling injuries are directly related to equipment or building structures. Such mishaps are not restricted to people; poor facilities and equipment can also cause injuries to animals. This can mean considerable economic loss at market time.
Considerable planning should precede capital investment in new facilities. Building design should take present circumstances into account and provide for any future expansion. County agricultural engineers can assist with the planning of new buildings or extensive renovations.
Following are a few areas that deserve special attention when designing animal facilities:
Poor flooring is a major cause of livestock and human falls. A recent U.S. study found that falls accounted for 18 percent of all animal-related accidents. Floors should be of an impervious material, preferably concrete. The finish on concrete floors should be roughened to prevent slips under wet conditions. High traffic areas, such as passageways, should be grooved.
Floors should be constructed in such a manner that water will drain away readily. Slatted floors are commonly used to keep animals dry in a confinement system.An appreciation of animals’ characteristics is essential to working safely with livestock.
Fencing and gates are extremely important in any livestock facility, and should be strong enough to withstand animal crowding. A variety of materials are available; remember that the key is strength and durability. Fences and gates should also be free of any sharp projections, such as nails or wire, that could injure animals.
Alley and loading chutes should be wide enough to allow an animal to pass, but not wide enough to allow it to turn around. Use solid-walled chutes, not open fencing. This will greatly reduce animal balking in the chute. The loading chute floor should be kept clean to prevent falls.
Lighting in a livestock facility should be even and diffused. Bright spots and shadows tend to make animals more skittish, particularly in crowding or loading areas. Avoid layouts that make animals look into the sun; this is particularly important with loading areas. Animals will move more easily from a dark area to a light area than the reverse. Type and duration of lighting may play a role in the productivity of some animals.
Restraining equipment is an important part of any beef or dairy operation. A fixed restraining chute should be free from any obstacle that could hurt an animal, while allowing a handler free access to any part of the animal without having to reach over or through the chute. Use anti-kick and back-up bars to prevent balking in the chute.
Owing to the extreme stress put on restraining equipment, it should be checked regularly for loose or worn latches, pinch points, and broken railings or head gates. Portable squeeze chutes should be securely anchored to the ground before use.
For more information visit www.farmsafety.ca or nasdonline.org
Source: National Ag Safety Database