Safety Tips when Working in a Cattle Chute

Published on Mon, 06/28/2021 - 1:28pm

Safety Tips when Working in a Cattle Chute.

 By Dana Charban.

 Cattle chute safety is of the utmost important when managing livestock, because all it takes is a split-second accident to lose an animal or even bankrupt an operation with a larger injury. While we do not hear about safety risks on farms or the accidents that take place as often these days, they still occur and it is important that producers minimize the risk factors to prevent injuries before they happen.

Here are our Top 10 Safety Tips for Working in a Cattle Chute:
1. Stay alert when working cattle and be mindful.
It may sound obvious, but it’s important that cattle handlers stay alert and mindful when working livestock at all times. Cattle handling needs to be calm and deliberate, and that means that the handlers themselves need to be too. Your intentional actions put cattle at ease and create a safer environment for all involved, especially when you implement low-stress cattle handling practices that keeps cattle moving safely and efficiently in the right direction.
2. Understand  high-risk situations and avoid them when possible.
When working with livestock, you want to avoid high-risk situations whenever possible, but sometimes there is no choice but to get into a higher risk situation on the ranch. New mamas with their calves, rowdy bulls, animals in distress, and those separated from the herd all present a potential risk to their handlers.
While you can’t avoid these risky situations, you can minimize their impact. Handlers who are cautious and methodical in their handling are less likely to end up in an accident.
3. Know your escape routes and stay close to them.
When working with any kind of livestock, you want to avoid being in the pens with them unless it is absolutely necessary. Sorting is the most common reason that handlers are in the pen with livestock, but this applies to cattle chute safety as well when you are palpating cattle. Always know your escape routes when you are handling cattle, and keep them in mind at all times so you can get out of the way of an animal in a split second if need be. With cows in the chute, always use a rump bar to hold them securely and stay alert to avoid kicks.
4. Make repairs before they become a problem.
Broken cattle corral panels, alleys, and equipment are a nightmare in the making. Accidents are far more likely to happen when you are dealing with a cattle chute or piece of handling equipment that has not been properly maintained before working cattle.
It is always better to complete your maintenance and repairs before there are cattle in the handling equipment, and don’t forget about your truck and livestock trailer as well! While you’re there, be sure to put a first aid kit in the truck in case of an emergency, too. The motto here is be prepared!
5. Don’t overload your pens or tub.
Overcrowding cattle can lead to rowdy cattle. Cattle like to have space to move freely, so placing them in a pen or corral can be a highly stressful situation. Giving them space to breathe and move within the pen leads to better results when getting them to flow through your handling system to the chute, and can dramatically improve safety for all parties involved.
6. Many hands make light work, but it’s a delicate balance.
Good help can be hard to find, but any help is good to have. Make sure that you have enough handlers to work the livestock you’re putting through the cattle chute that day. Running around to go from one task to another can lead to mistakes and safety hazards, so it is better to have a few extra hands whenever possible.
If you find part way through the day that you’re struggling to work your livestock, consider pausing for a minute to ask a neighbor or friend to come by and help! The temporary delay will pay off in the long run if you are struggling.
If extra hands are not an option, invest in equipment that can help take the place of extra assistance! A well-designed handling system and reliable equipment can make all the difference when you are working livestock, and can minimize the need for extra hands.
7. Use the equipment for the task it is meant for.
No modifications, please! Cattle equipment is heavy machinery and it is important that we as handlers respect the tools we work with by using them properly. While it may not be a big deal to apply pour-on in the alley, using the alley for injections isn’t the safest practice. Use the tools at your disposal for their intended tasks, and it will pay off with enhanced safety.
8. Choose high-quality equipment that is built to last.
A safe ranch is a ranch that uses good quality equipment that is suited to the needs of the operation. If that old cattle chute has been welded back together more times than you can count, or you are still working with an old self-catch head gate, it might be time for an upgrade to something that is better suited to your needs. Even replacing a single panel or gate that is broken, or revamping the layout of your cattle corral design can quickly pay off with better cattle flow and handler safety. It may seem like a big investment at the time, but it can lead to a safer ranch environment, which is especially important if you’re working with family and friends.
9. Adopt a continuous improvement mindset.
Continually improving our cattle handling practices leads to a safer ranch. There are many online courses you can take to quickly improve your cattle handling quickly and easily, and even reading a blog or two on best practices can help! Make sure to connect with those who are handling cattle before you work a batch to remind them of those best practices to reduce safety risks the day of.
10. Keep your maintenance up to date.
Refer to your product manual regularly to check for maintenance that may be due on your equipment. This goes beyond just spraying WD-40 Dry Lube on the pivot points on your cattle chute, too. Think about your gate hinges, the oil in your hydraulic pump, swing gate on the cattle tub, and even the emergency exits on your cattle alleys and ensure they are in proper working condition before you work cattle through your equipment.
Safety tips when working in a cattle chute don’t have to be complicated. Use these 10 tips to simplify the process of working your cattle and prevent accidents before they happen for a safer and more profitable operation.
Arrowquip is on a mission to make ranching families safe by providing them with highly durable, smart cattle chutes and handling equipment designs that make it easier to manage livestock. Cattle are crazy enough, so they have put cattle chute safety at the forefront of their designs for a better cattle working experience.
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