When a cow is having difficulty calving, farmers will automatically rush to give assistance and deliver a live calf.

Little thought is given to personal safety. But working in a safe environment is important. When calving cows this spring, outlined are five things to keep in mind for personal safety.

1 Lock cows in a proper calving gate

Ideally, cows should be moved to calving pens, or a dedicated calving area, once they pass the water bag.

The cow should have access to a proper calving gate with headlock when intervention is required. Locking the cow in a static position makes it safer to assist the animal.

Do not calve cows in the headlocking gate on the handling unit. There is not enough room and if a cow goes down, she will get stuck.

Similarly, do not try and corner a cow behind a dividing gate in a group pen. Sooner or later, people and animals will get hurt.

2 Working with the calf

If the calf needs help with standing to suck, or colostrum has to be tubed, make use of the headlock and calving gate to restrain the cow first.

Offer the cow some meal in a bucket to distract the animal from your presence, then proceed with the task in hand as quickly as possible.

3 Have two escape points in a calving pen

During labour and in the first few days after calving, cow temperament can change. The most timid cow in the herd can suddenly become aggressive as her protective instinct kicks in for her calf.

Never take quiet cows for granted. If you have to enter a pen to treat a naval, sick calf, ear tag or any other reason, think about how you will get out in an emergency.

There should be two exit points in such pens, ideally at opposite sides. With a single exit point, if the cow stands between you and the exit, you are in trouble should the animal become aggressive.

4 Using the calving jack

When using the calving jack, never stand in the space between the ratchet bar and the side wall or gate.

As the cow moves, or when the animal goes down, the person on the jack can be trapped against the wall by the bar.

5 Keep dogs away from the calving shed

As stated, cow behaviour will change at calving time as animals become more protective over their newborn.

Dogs can be seen as a threat and cows are prone to becoming unsettled and more aggressive. Therefore, keep farm dogs away from the calving shed.

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