Good yards keep handlers and cattle safe

By Country News

Regardless of how many cattle are run, cattle yards are an important, although often overlooked — even neglected — part of the production system on a farm.

Yards and loading ramps should provide safe, efficient handling of cattle when drafting and loading, and be suitable for restraining animals for husbandry procedures such as drenching, vaccination, ear tagging, pregnancy testing or artificial insemination.

Safe Work Australia considers agricultural workplaces to be one of the most dangerous places to work. An average of 41 workers are killed each year and there are many serious injuries.

Being hit by an animal is a category of farm workplace incident causing deaths and injuries on farms, due to the frequency of these incidents.

While yards may be used relatively infrequently, they are very important to provide a safe working environment for the producer and others such as employees or stock agents using the yards.

In addition, the yards should provide an environment that allows cattle to be worked with a minimal amount of agitation and optimum animal flow.

People in the yards should be able to work cattle using low stress handling principles and practices.

If any animal/s become agitated, there should be a means for people to get out of the yards quickly, such as a ‘dart hole’ for example.

A pre-identified means of escape is especially important when handling bulls that have unpredictable behaviours.

Yards need to be robust and sturdy, especially in the forcing yard, race and gateway areas.

Gates should be designed and hung with catches that minimise the chance of animals pushing or kicking the gate back onto the operator.

To minimise the risk of bruising or skin damage, avoid having protruding objects such as bolt ends or wire in the yard structure.

Pinkeye has potential to occur when animals are in close contact (for example, yarding) in dusty conditions. A gravel surface in the yards should assist in reducing the amount of dust generated.

Cattle have pupils that are slit-shaped and weak eye muscles. This reduces their ability to focus quickly on objects and in dusty conditions may lead to the risk of mishaps where the animal cannot see the operator, hence increasing the risk of the operator being injured.

In wet seasons, a gravel layer assists with drainage from the yards, lessening the build-up of mud.

—Greg Ferrier

livestock extension officer

Agriculture Victoria