Animal handling

Handling animals such as cattle, sheep, horses, poultry and dogs is part of everyday life on many farms and will always involve some level of risk. Sensible health and safety is about managing that risk. All animals behave differently and can be unpredictable, especially during mating season. Cattle, pigs, horses and sheep should be treated with caution at all times. Keep the animals as calm as possible and a fence or barrier between you and the animals and never turn your back.

Falling off horses can cause serious injuries so always wear a helmet. Ensure that all workers are appropriately trained in animal handling and that visitors are aware of the animal handling safety practices on your farm. Children should always be supervised around farm animals.

Proper maintenance and design of yards and fences is important in reducing risk of injury when handling livestock including the use of appropriate animal-handling equipment and aids such as cradles and crushes as lifting or pushing animals can cause injury. Animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans (this includes dogs and cats) so vaccinate where appropriate and always wear suitable protective clothing to reduce your risk when handling potentially infected material such as faeces or afterbirth. Plan for tasks involving animals and get help if you need it.

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Fast facts:

  • Handling animals like cattle, sheep, horses, poultry and dogs will always involve some level of risk. Animals are unpredictable and should be treated with caution at all times. Keep the animals as calm as possible and a barrier between you and the animals.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a horse to avoid a serious injury if a fall occurs.
  • Ensure all farm workers and visitors are aware of the animal handling safety practices.

References used for this topic

More information:

Queensland Government
Safety in animal handling

Safework New South Wales
Working with livestock on farms

Worksafe Victoria
Beef cattle handling: A practical safety guide

Research & reviews:

American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Fatal and non‐fatal animal‐related injuries and illnesses to workers, United States, 2011‐2014

Centers for Disease Control (US)
Fatalities Caused by Cattle – Four States 2003-2008