Teaching Youth to be Safe Around Livestock

A child feeding livestock with proper footwear.

Sabrina Schirtzinger, ANR Educator Knox County

Owning and working livestock is the first step to teaching youth responsibilities on the farm. Younger children may not be aware of the dangers that come with this responsibility. As parents it is our duty to teach our children the proper ways to work with animals to ensure safety.

Begin with the basics: 

Clean, Working Facilities

Barns should be free of tripping hazards and cluttered areas to decrease the risk of injury. Fences, gates, alleyways, and panels should be free of rusty nails, loose bolts, broken boards, and gaps in pens. 

A key part of livestock handling safety is keeping equipment and facilities in proper working order. 

Using Your Quiet Voice 

Did you know livestock can hear sounds and pitches that humans cannot? Loud noises scare animals and high frequencies can hurt their ears. Announce your presence when entering the barn/pen with animals. Quiet, calm voices will aid in keeping livestock at ease. 

Recognize the Signs of Aggression/Fear 

It is natural for livestock to protect their offspring, herd, pasture, or pen. Watch for signs of aggression and fear to know when you may be in danger. Signs may include: 

  1. Showing their teeth 
  2. Body posture- pawing at the ground, head down and shaking. 
  3. Pinned ears 
  4. Raised tail or hair standing up on their back 

Before entering an area with livestock have a planned route to escape if an animal gets aggressive. 

Proper Clothing 

Protect your feet by wearing sturdy boots when working livestock. Non-skid soles can also help with uneven and wet footing. Wear leather gloves when working or loading livestock to protect your hands. Use rubber gloves when handling chemicals, feces, or diseased items. 

Approach Livestock 

Know the blind spots of the livestock you are working with. Swine and cattle have a difficult time judging distance and cannot see behind them. It is best to approach all animals at their sides. 

Teaching youth when they are young important safety tips is key to their safety around livestock. 

Sabrina Schirtzinger, ANR Educator Knox County, can be reached at 740-397-0401 or Schirtzinger.55@osu.edu. This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team.  https://agsafety.osu.edu/.