Safety focus: Are your livestock handling facilities up to the task?

Livestock can be extremely dangerous and need to be respected. Last year, 24 farmers died in work-related accidents – 14 were aged 65 or older.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) indicate that between 30% and 60% of all accidents reported are due to livestock; that’s between 450 and 900 accidents every year.

“It is an unfortunate fact of life that agriculture is one of the areas where Ireland has a poor record. Proper handling facilities can help reduce the risk on farms,” Teagasc’s JJ Lenehan said at a recent farm safety demonstration in Mullingar.

“People of an older age are not as nimble as they use to be. They may think they are; but if a cow turned around in the pen after calving, they may not be able to jump out of the way as quick as they used to,” he explained.

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JJ also outlined that there are three parties involved when it comes to livestock: the farmer; the animal; and the facilities. He also said that dairy or suckler cows are equally as dangerous when it comes to calving.

All handling facilities featured below can be purchased via grant aid under TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme). All items are priced excluding VAT. However, it must be noted that VAT can only be claimed back on ‘fixed’ items.

Furthermore, applications must amount to €2,000. This means – as no one item costs €2,000 – numerous items will have to be purchased or one item would have to be part of a larger TAMS project.

Calving gates

The gate pictured below can be adjusted to fit existing pens. It is set up against a wall and an opening gate can be used to entice the cow into the headlock.

Within a minute or two, the cow is restrained into the required position. This gate is also equipped with a quick-release headlock.

“Any farms with cows or heifers calving should have a calving gate. The day of pulling a gate in from somewhere else is gone. It also avoids having to bring the cow for a walk while she is in a vulnerable condition,” JJ added.

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The listed price of the gate pictured is €450. However, the department standard costing for a calving gate is €148. In other words, only 40% (or 60% in the case of a young farmer) of €148 can be applied for.

Crush and weighing scales

This crush and weighing scales comes equipped with a sliding door, which allows the farmer to act quickly and safely when loading the box.

It also has numerous sections which can be opened to allow access to the animal. It also comes equipped with a head-locking gate. This crush also doubles as a weighing scales. The cost amounts to €1,548 (excluding VAT).

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Head scoop

The head scoop can be purchased at a price of €379 (excluding VAT). These items – Lenehan says – are becoming increasingly popular.

“This particular head scoop can be operated by a left or right-handed person. It can be very useful while dosing or giving a bolus to an animal. Different brackets allow it to be fitted to different types of crushes,” he said.

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There are also other devices that can be purchased to make handling livestock safer. A spring-loaded backing bar can be installed. The leg hoist is also supported by TAMS and can be attached to any crush. This unit costs €252 (excluding VAT).

A weighing scales can also be purchased under the scheme. It costs €1,064 (excluding VAT), while a dehorning crate amounts to €419 (excluding VAT).

Penning (race gates) can be purchased for €43.50/m up to a distance of 75m.

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JJ also explained that new facilities need to be well planned out and that there are plenty of different recommended layouts. He also advised using curved races and collecting yards instead of dead corners. The latter interrupts animal flow.

“The specifications that the department have on the galvanised steel ensures that these facilities should last for two generations. So, if you do it once, do it right. Put some planning in place and it will pay for itself many times,” he concluded.

The items pictured were supplied by O’Neill Weighing Systems.