"Safety is better than the police.”

This is good advice when working on dairies. The well-being of each employee is at stake, plus in the U.S. there are strict safety regulations that must be followed by all businesses.

My recommendation is simple: Before starting any job with dairy animals, stop a few seconds and analyze the conditions where you are going to work and look for possible hazards.

When working in the hospital pen or with fresh cows, think about how you are going to give medications. If you  are going to give the medications orally or inject them in the vein or the base of the ear, and you only have a nose holder  to restrain the animal, are you working safely? The answer is NO. The nose holder can come off the nostrils easily, and the cow can hurt you or even cause death.

Think what the quick moving head of a cow can do if it hits you in the head.

Before starting any treatment, make sure the cow is as still as possible. Always use a halter to restrain the head of the animal. It is OK if you want to use the nose holder in addition to using the halter.   

And, when first-calf heifers and newly fresh cows come into the milking parlor, they may be nervous because they are arriving in a place they haven’t been accustomed to for a while. The animal could kick when the milking machine goes on. Be careful in these instances and stay calm. If we treat the animal badly in some way, it is going to be even more difficult to restrain her — and, in the future, she will be afraid to come back into the parlor. An animal that is nervous or excited does not let her milk down very well, which hurts production.    

Teamwork is very important in these instances. Our co-workers should be willing to help out when working around nervous cows.  

Remember, the dairy cow requires that we treat her kindly. Yelling at them won’t do any good. If the cow is excited or upset, she won’t cooperate in what we are trying to do with her.

When one or more cows are nervous in a group, and they want to split from the other cows and begin running, the biggest error we can make is to try to run behind them or yell at them. What we need to do instead is to move another group of cows in their direction and get the bigger group together; that way, the nervous cows will calm down and it will be easier and safer for us to move them.

In addition, analyze the areas where the cows will be moving. Wet, slippery surfaces or those at an incline are very dangerous — not only for the animals, but for the employees.   

Bulls pose another potential danger. They are aggressive and betraying. When you enter a corral where there are bulls, never take your eye off of them. Always be alert to their moves and their reactions, since they can attack at any moment and can injure you or even cause death, as it has already occurred in several dairies in the United States.

It is important that all employees receive safety training. New employees who don’t have experience working with animals should get instruction before starting their jobs.

Don’t allow yourself to be placed in a situation where you are untrained, uncomfortable and potentially at risk for injury or death.

Carlos M. Simmonds is a dairy consultant serving the dairy industry out of Idaho.  He can be reached at camasife@msn.com

Bilingual safety signs 

Emphasize safety around the farm with signage from Dairy Herd Management.

The brightly colored plastic signs —approximately 15 inches by 15 inches in size — warn people about possible safety hazards, give basic instructions on biosecurity protocols or denote locations on the farm where safety concerns exist. The signs provide this information in both English and Spanish.  

For more information, go to www.ManejoLechero.com and look for the “Bilingual dairy signs” section.