“Let go of the goat and no one gets hurt!” That’s what I told one of the research techs who thought he should help me move my 35 does and all their babies from the birthing barn to their spring pen. It was a crisp afternoon, and they were hungry, so my plan was to lead them from one place to the next, shaking a feed bucket all the way. It was how I’d trained my research goat herd to move with me on the National Guard Base where they worked summers grazing firebreaks, and it had never failed me. I taught them to do this because it was easy and safe.
But the research tech didn’t listen. He had hold of the horns of a doe with one hand, and they were fighting it out. She won, giving him a broken finger in the process. I sent him off to take care of himself, and the goats and I finished our peaceful walk to their new home.
This was back in the ’90s when I was running my research project on goats grazing firebreaks to reduce fire danger for homeowners. Goats have horns, they’re wily and fast on their feet, and it was clear in no time at all that chasing them, grabbing them by the horns, shoving and lifting them was a recipe for injury. So I learned to start every herd move by telling everyone involved, “It’s just a goat project. There’s no reason to get hurt.”
But sometimes we all forget that. Since I started publishing On Pasture 8 years ago, I’ve heard of many deaths or severe injury caused by a bull or cow attacking someone in its pasture. It turns out that cattle and horses account for 90% of all animal-related deaths in the United States. In the United Kingdom, cattle are considered to be the most dangerous animal they have.
But it’s not just animals that put us at risk. It’s the equipment we use, it’s the rough conditions we sometimes work in, and it’s the times that we’re careless about our safety. The National Ag Safety Database says that about 80% of our accidents and fatalities are the result of being careless. About 20% of us will suffer lost-time injuries, and there will be 60 to 70 fatalities per 100,000 farmers and ranchers.
So, what can you do?
Well, you can start with this advice from Kris Ringwall (and keep in mind that this doesn’t just go for cows. It works for any animal you work with:
Next, brush up on your body-language-reading skills:
I hope this helps. Be safe out there!