Herd owners with cows due to calve will be worried about hygiene, calving difficulties, colostrum for calves, disease outbreaks etc.
It is ingrained into the farmer’s mentality to look after stock, even if it endangers them.
Farmers have cared for and nourished the animals in their herds, and in many situations, they will disregard their own safety when trying to aid cows and young calves.
Farmers must realise that they need to look after themselves at calving time.
Cow attacks around calving time have increased in recent years, and this accident cause now surpasses bull attacks as the number one cause of livestock-related deaths.
Here are suggestions from Teagasc advisers for safe handling of cows and calves.
At calvings, ensure cows or heifers are safely secured in a fully operational calving gate.
Calving pens should be designed so that a farmer is protected from a cow.
With a well-designed pen, the calving gate pivots from a pillar at the front of the pen, beside the head-gate, and provides protection to the farmer as it rotates inwards.
Cows generally become very agitated directly after calving.
After a cow calves, leave the cow and calf alone for 20 to 30 minutes to bond. This will allow the cow to calm down.
Remain vigilant at all times.
If the calf is not suckling and is weak, safely put the cow back in the calving gate, and assist the calf to feed, or give it some thawed-out warm colostrum, using a bucket with a teat.
When BVD tagging and inserting the department registration tag, ensure the cow is isolated and secure.
If calving aggression lasts for more than a few days, cull the cow after the calf is weaned, because aggression is a genetic trait.
During the grazing season, never dose, inject, or treat a calf out in the open field.
Ensure they are safely penned away from their dam.
Children under seven years should never be allowed near livestock.
Children over seven need to be accompanied by an adult if approaching any cows with calves in sheds or fields, especially if cows with calves at foot are present. Never allow children become involved with cows during or after calving. Keep children away from fields with bulls at all times.
Dogs are present on most farms, either as a working dog in handling cattle or sheep, a guard dog, or as a companion.
However, a dog can be a man’s worst enemy if it approaches farm animals such as suckler cows with young calves. These cows may become agitated, and are liable to attack both the dog and dog handler, if a dog goes near their calf.
So leave the dog at home if you intend herding suckler cows and calves. Or leave the dog in the cab if approaching any suckler cows with their offspring in fields.
If herding or handling cows with calves in a field, always have an escape route planned. or have a mobile sanctuary such as a jeep or tractor ready in case of an attack.
Always bring a cattle stick when herding or moving cows with young calves at foot.
Don’t use for hitting animals, but for giving the cow a sense of width when you outstretch your arms, holding the stick.
Keep a fully charged mobile phone on you at all times.
Only enter cattle or cow pens when it is absolutely necessary. If entering a pen, have an escape route planned.
When handling or dosing cows and calves in a crush, work in pairs. Know where your work partner is positioned, or is doing, at all times. Avoid frightening stock by shouting, use of dogs etc. Use cattle sticks to move stock.
Ensure all parts of the cattle crush, such as the automatic gate or the end gate, are working properly. Have a nose tongs or rope available to restrain cows if necessary.
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