Safe Handling of Livestock on the Farm and at the Show

Richard Purdin, OSU Extension, Adams County ANR/CD Educator

As fair season rolls along many 4-H and FFA members are still proudly exhibiting their livestock projects they have worked hard all year to raise. Tending to livestock can be a lot of hard work and long hours but with all the hard work comes a feeling of accomplishment. No matter if you are raising your livestock for show or sell off the farm, it is important to remember the following livestock handling safety steps.

Livestock Are Not Pets

It is easy to get attached to an animal, especially for 4-H and FFA youth. It is important to remember that livestock are not pets and should be handled with caution. Never let your guard down when working with livestock. Animal behaviors can be unpredictable especially when introduced to a new environment such as a fairgrounds or new farm. New conditions such as noise, different people, other livestock, and new facilities can make livestock feel threatened and stressed. 

Steps For Safe Handling

The following steps should be followed when working with livestock or transporting livestock to a new location.

  • Understand your animal’s behavior patterns and attitude towards you and other handlers.
  • Learn to recognize when livestock are becoming agitated or nervous.
  • Be calm, move slowly, and avoid yelling when handling livestock.
  • Understand the livestock’s depth perception, flight zone, and blind spots.
  • Make sure loading ramps and trailers are clean and well lighted to prevent balking and slipping. Proper loading equipment will prevent injury for both livestock and handlers.
  • Have another handler with you when working with livestock, never work alone.

Prevent Livestock Stress

Changes to an animal’s environment such as weather, feed, water, barn space, and handlers can create a lot of stress. When livestock are stressed, they can react in different ways. As a livestock handler, reducing the amount of stress placed on the livestock will go a long way in reducing the occurrence of human and livestock injury. Some tips to reducing stress are as follows:

  • Keep herds together- when herd animals are separated from one other, they can become agitated.
  • Keep show stalls and barn spaces clean to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
  • Avoid changing rations or quantities of feed given to livestock when relocated to a new environment.
  • Always provide clean water to livestock.
  • Wear proper personal protective equipment when working around livestock. This can help prevent disease transfer and injury.

For more information and safety steps you can go to

Richard Purdin, ANR/CD Educator Adams County, can be reached at 937-544 2339 or This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team.