18th September 2015

QMS Launches Video to Promote Safety at Calving

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has produced a short video to promote the importance of safety when working with cattle at calving, including a range of steps which can help reduce risk of injury or loss of life.

Dr Basil Lowman of SAC Consulting, a division of SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), highlights a range of tips in a four point plan which he talks through in the video. Much of the advice in the video is also applicable to those working with animals in a bull beef system.

“Every farmer knows that even the most docile cows can sometimes be extra-protective towards their calves and therefore, all cows should be treated with respect,” said Dr Lowman.

 “It is important for cows to be familiar with staff or family members who may be assisting with calving so they do not feel threatened by people they are less used to,” he added.

In the QMS video, Dr Lowman recommends some measures to reduce risks during indoor calving, based on simple planning. He said: "Three to four weeks before calving is due to start, take family or staff members who will be working with calving cows into the calving area and identify the escape routes. You should also check if you have a mobile signal in the pen so you can call for help if need be."

He points out that a ring feeder can be a useful tool in a calving pen, either to keep between yourself and the cow or to jump into to call for help. Another possibility being successfully used by some producers is erecting a temporary electric fence across part of the pen. This can give a quick escape to a safe area if needed and should be put in place two to three weeks before calving starts, to allow the cows time to learn to respect it.

In the unfortunate event of being knocked down by a cow, Dr Lowman said: "By far the quickest method to get out of the way is to roll away, so it is essential to make sure the gap under gates is large enough, and clear of muck or other obstructions, to get under."

Looking at outdoor calving situations, Dr Lowman’s advice flagged up the value of having a vehicle close by. "Never be too far away from your vehicle; either to jump into or to roll under."

He also recommends the use of a calf catcher or ring feeder when tagging calves so they can be handled safely, isolated from their mothers.

All the above are practical measures relating to planning or steps taken during calving. However the best preventative measure, according to Dr Lowman, is to cull aggressive cows from the herd and, in the case of very aggressive animals, their daughters too.

He pointed out that research shows that aggressive cows actually spend less time licking their calves and are generally therefore worse mothers. He also recommends selecting bulls with above average EBV's for docility.            

You can also view the video on the QMS facebook page or on YouTube

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