Whether you're a fulltime farmer or a lifestyle farmer correct animal handling techniques are hugely important. Why? They reduce time, effort and the risk of injury to yourself, and your animals.
The first point of animal handling, like most things on the farm is common sense, animals will always walk away from you, so this is helpful to remember when moving animals around the farm.
Understanding animal behaviour will help you predict how the animal will react to you e.g., stand behind a cows shoulder and it will move forward, stand in front and it will move back. It only takes small movements to change an animal’s direction 2 or 3 sidesteps is usually all that is needed to guide the animal in the desired direction, this takes some time to master but sure beats chasing animals around a paddock as this causes avoidable stress on both your heart and the animal!
Animals have a great memory, they remember both pain, pleasure and locations and link them together. E.g. the sound of a feedout wagon or ATV might mean hay and food, or an electric fence is pain and therefore they will stay away. Or if an animal has a painful experience in yards they will remember this and refuse to enter next time. This is important to remember as if you need to get an animal into a headbail for a painful experience e.g. dehorning or calving, don’t expect to get it back in there again!
Working with animals in yards requires at least two people to work safely and efficiently, steel toe boots are recommended with gripy soles. Farm animals are much easier to handle once they have settled down after yarding, this generally takes about 30min.
Keeping you animals calm when handling them is key, working slowly around them with no sudden movements or loud noises helps keep them relaxed. If you find yourself, or the animals upset then it’s a good idea to take a break and let things settle down.
Cows with newly born calves can become very aggressive. Beware of this when handling young calves and do not allow dogs near cows with calves as they have been known to inflict serious injuries on dogs.
Follow this few basic points and your animal handling will become a enjoyable task for both you and your beloved animals
Safe handling to all.
DIY advice for lifestylers, written by Kiwi Cattle Yards owner, Euan Seymour.