1 Using medicines correctly
Medicines we use on farm can be poisonous if consumed accidentally or withpoor injection technique. All medicines should be in a secure locked unit away from children. All needles should also be safely stored and correctly disposed of. I have seen many farmers accidentally inject themselves while working. The first thing to do is carefully wash the affected site and then read the leaflet for any precautions. Some products will tell you to contact your doctor immediately others may just suggest precautionary steps.
Any dirty needle can cause infections, so wash thoroughly and disinfect the site. If pain or swelling continues, seek medical attention.
Proper handling facilities and taking your time when administering medicines is essential.
2 Never trust a bull
A lot of farmers are introducing bulls now following two rounds of AI. Others are using vasectomised bulls to pick up cows as heat activity declines.
A bull is one of the most dangerous animals on the farm and should never be trusted.
Bull behaviour can change around mating time and even quiet bulls can become aggressive.
Bulls are faster than we are in open space. Always keep a safe distance and know where safety is, be it a ditch or a vehicle.
It is worth also considering using tail paint to clearly mark the bull to help identify him at grass.
3 Disease can change things
Disease can turn quiet animals into dangerous ones. The early stage of grass tetany is a good example, where the magnesium imbalance seems to cause a nervous imbalance. These animals can be hypersensitive and sometimes aggressive. Other brain diseases such as listerial meningitis can also change behaviour, making animals unpredictable. Be cautious approaching any animal at pasture that has changed behaviour or is suspected of being sick. When moving animals in from pasture moving them with others in a group is often a safer bet and less likely to spook them.
Painful conditions such as summer mastitis can make animals more reactive and pain can heighten their protective nature, particularly with calves at foot.
A zoonosis is any infectious disease that humans can pick up from animals. Bugs such as cryptosporidium, E coli and salmonella can all cause diarrhoea in humans, so gloves and good hand hygiene are key when handling infected animals.
Leptospirosis can also infect humans. Dairy farmers are particularly at risk, with infected animals shedding the disease in their urine. This means there can be an increased risk while milking. This is another good reason to start vaccinating your herd.
Ringworm can also be picked up from cattle and sheep. Always wear gloves when handling cattle or sheep with ringworm.
Ticks can cause disease in animals by transferring bacteria such as coxiella burnetii while having a blood feed. Ticks can also spread disease such as Lyme disease to humans. Be very cautious when working with animals that have ticks. If bitten by a tick, seek medical advice. Never take the chance.
5 A clear head
When working with needles or other equipment around cattle, we need to be focused on the job at hand. It may be simple, but a clear head is critical to safety on farm.
A busy farm can lead to a busy mind, which can lead to a distracted mind. This means we often can drop our focus and awareness. Never start working with animals when you’re distracted or stressed. It will lead to further frustration and is often when accidents occur.
A clear head is always a good place to start, even if we need to sometimes step back, take a few deep breaths and start again.
Most accidents occur with animals when we take a chance – for some this has meant not getting a second chance. So farm safely over the summer months.