Get Ready, Here They Come – Wobbly Legs and All

Lisa Pfeifer – OSU Ag Safety and Health Education Coordinator

Winter 2017 in Ohio has been anything but predictable. Rolling on through late winter and early spring here, will likely present farmers with a rollercoaster of environmental conditions to face while managing animal herds during spring birthing. As we move between freezing and thawing the farm yard changes conditions from frozen to muddy, leaving terrain challenging to navigate for both farmer and animal.

We all know safety is something that frequently gets pushed to the background as responsibilities pick up pace around the farm. Analyzing supply inventories, past experiences, and personal practices and habits at the front end of this season is a good start for making some simple preparations that might ultimately reduce health, safety, and financial risks.

We can start by thinking about the things you will need and where you can find them when calving, foaling, lambing all get into full swing. Where are the obstetrical chains? When did you last use the tag gun? Did you sanitize the bottles and nipples following that late herd birth that happened post-birthing season? A laundry list of supplies that can come in handy follows, so scan it and make a mental note of the state of your own preparedness around the farm for when those four-legged little ones begin to hit the ground.

What kind of shape are you in when it comes to the supplies around your farm? Do you have these items and are they centrally located to where you are most likely to use/need them?

  • obstetrical chains
  • sleeves
  • lubricant
  • bucket
  • soap
  • iodine solution
  • colostrum/milk replacer
  • bottle and nipple
  • halter
  • medications/vaccinations
  • thermometer
  • pocket record book
  • blanket
  • animal identification supplies -tattoo kit/tag gun/branding iron/paint branding numbers
  • animal husbandry procedures – docking or castration supplies

After thinking about supplies, reflect on some of those surprise animal reactions or behaviors during birthing that have caught you off guard in the past. Animals are unpredictable and when you throw a newborn into the mix often times agitation sets in quickly. Farmers tend to work alone and can get into dangerous situations quickly. Processing those memorable behaviors from the past will help you stay alert to the dangers in the season ahead. Always plan for the unexpected. Plan an escape route when you need to be in an enclosed area with any of your animals. Try to always keep a cell phone on your belt or in you pocket when you will be working with animals alone, it will facilitate getting help should you need it.

Those ever changing lovely weather conditions of Ohio can also present a host of safety challenges. Winter can make for slow movement due to bulky clothing, cold induced arthritis, or slippery walking surfaces, all slowing reaction times when working with animals. The spring like weather we have been having can also lead to slippery surfaces because of mud, so there is a lot to be aware of under foot. Those same environmental factors present risks to newborns of getting stuck or not surviving if they are dropped in the soup. Providing a safe dry environment for animals during the birthing process can help their health, the health of the newborn, and ultimately your overall bottom line financially.

Stay safe out there and enjoy one of the most hopeful times of the farming year!

Questions about OSU Ag Safety, visit or contact Lisa Pfeifer, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health, at or 614-292-9455.