Experts from Scotland’s Rural College have added their voice to those warning anyone working with stock to take care. 

Farmers are urged to take care around newly calved cows

College experts are urging everyone dealing with calving cows to spend time looking at where they calve and consider how easy it would be to protect themselves or escape from the pen should the cow turn nasty.

St Boswells based beef specialist Basil Lowman said: “The ill-natured animals are well known and treated with respect, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the quieter ones. Every new mother is alive with hormones making her extra protective and if the cow is not used to day to day contact with humans anything can set her off and it can happen very quickly.”

He also believes modern, efficient beef production has seen a rapid increase in the numbers of cows managed by one person, which has greatly reduced contact between cows and humans.

Often calving pens with sheeted gates or solid walls can be impossible to climb if the cow gets between them and the front gate. However a simple thing like tying a water filled five gallon drum in the back corner as a step up to get over the gate can be a life saver. Another tip is to ensure all gates are hung to ideally leave a gap below of around 1 ½ ft (45cm) so it is possible to crawl underneath. Fencing off a corner of the pen with a firmly fixed strong gate/feed barrier can also provide a refuge until help arrives.

Dr Lowman added: “Although these suggestions may seem over the top, assessing risk and taking as many sensible precautions as possible is always the key to minimise accidents. And always carry a mobile with the first number being someone who can immediately come to help.  If you are concerned about losing or damaging your current expensive phone then buy the simplest one to carry with you while you are working with stock.”

Top tips:

  • Never go in with a cow if she is doing any of the following: Holding her head low to the ground and shaking it from side to side with her ears back or if she is continuously staring at you and shaking her head
  • If a calf needs assistance to breathe and the cow has been restrained to calve her, do not release her until the calf has recovered and been moved back to the pen
  • Never move a newborn calf alone unless the cow is safely penned off.
  • Never stand between a cow and her newborn calf
  • If you are attacked try and crawl/roll away from the cow towards safety e.g. under a gate, trailer etc. to present as small and non threatening target as possible
  • If you are called to help a colleague do not go into the pen immediately as you will be putting yourself at risk too.  Wait until there are two of you present
  • If you are alone ring for extra help, then try and distract the cow away or drive into the pen with a tractor, preferably a loader tractor carrying a bale of straw to push the cow away

For more information visit: www.sruc.ac.uk/news

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