4 Ways to Prioritize Safety When Handling Livestock

Heather Stone

Aug 14, 2023

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Ranching and farming are physically demanding and rewarding occupations, but there are inherent risks when working with livestock. Large animals, such as cattle, horses, sheep and pigs, can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous if not handled carefully. 

Understanding the common risks and implementing proactive safety measures can significantly reduce the occurrence of injuries or illnesses when handling livestock. 

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1. Avoid Animal Handling Injuries by Following Safe Handling Best Practices

One of the most frequent sources of injuries on farms and ranches is a result of direct interactions with livestock. These injuries may result from animal kicks, bites, headbutts or crushing incidents. 

Farmers and farm workers should undergo comprehensive training on livestock handling techniques and safety protocols. They should be familiar with the behaviors of different animals, understand their stress signals and learn how to respond appropriately in various situations. 

In an effort to prevent animal handling injuries, consider these livestock safety handling tips: 

  • Establish a routine

  • Move slowly and deliberately around livestock

  • Never prod an animal when it has nowhere to go

  • Touch animals gently and be aware of their “flight zone”

  • Avoid loud noises 

  • Be extra careful around newborns as animals have strong maternal instincts 

  • Always have an escape route when working in close quarters

The National Ag Safety Database (NASD) also offers additional resources on livestock handling safety techniques

2. Prevent Trampling Incidents by Working in Well-Designed Handling Facilities

Large animals like cattle or horses can be territorial and easily startled, often resulting in trampling accidents, especially in crowded or stressful situations. To avoid these scenarios, maintain a safe distance and respect animals' personal space to avoid provoking aggression or spooking them. Approaching animals calmly and confidently also reduces the likelihood of a startled reaction. 

Finally, implement proper crowd management strategies and invest in well-designed handling facilities to prevent injuries to livestock and workers. Such a facility should: 

  • Minimize uneven walking surfaces 

  • Have flooring that allows for drainage 

  • Have grooved high traffic areas 

  • Ensure fences and gates are strong enough to contain crowded livestock

  • Have alleys and chutes wide enough to allow animals to pass but not wide enough to allow them to turn

  • Offer proper ventilation to minimize hazards associated with gasses, dusts, chemicals, etc. 

  • Be lit evenly with diffused light

The University of Missouri offers additional guidance on animal handling safety considerations

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3. Limit Zoonotic Diseases by Minimizing Spread of Germs

Livestock can transmit diseases to humans, known as zoonotic diseases. Examples include anthrax, brucellosis, E. coli, rabies, ringworm and Q fever. Following biosecurity practices and maintaining proper hygiene can help prevent the spread of these diseases.

Sick animals are more likely to spread harmful germs. Minimize the spread of germs by: 

  • Managing housing, nutrition and stress

  • Keeping up-to-date with vaccinations and deworming 

  • Practicing good biosecurity 

  • Removing manure and dead animals in a timely manner

  • Washing your hands often

  • Wearing the appropriate personal protective clothing 

  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment

  • Minimizing exposure to insects, ticks and wildlife that can harm livestock and workers 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers valuable information on zoonotic diseases and how to prevent them.  

4. Reduce Risk by Remembering These Livestock Safety Tips

Always be aware of your surroundings when dealing with livestock. These animals can be potentially dangerous, and staying alert should always be top of mind. Here are a few more additional tips to consider:

  • Uneven terrain, slippery surfaces or obstacles can pose trip, slip and fall hazards

  • Always wear appropriate footwear with good traction

  • Implement low-stress handling techniques and designs to minimize animal handling injuries i.e. Bud Box design

  • Employ fixed restraining chutes to allow the handler to work without reaching over or through the chute

  • Use caution when vaccinating livestock as some vaccines are known to be fatal and/or toxic to humans

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Animal Health Supplies from FBN Direct®

FBN Direct offers a broad range of vaccines, dewormers, antibiotics and general animal health products for livestock producers. With direct-to-farm delivery, convenient online purchasing options and fast delivery in three days or less, FBN Direct offers a seamless and streamlined purchasing experience for all of your animal health supplies. 


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Heather Stone

Aug 14, 2023

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