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Handling Stock In Yards

  • Remember that animals remember!  They certainly remember bad experiences (fear and pain) from handling in yards.
  • Before you yard stock, check everything in the yards is in proper order, especially of other people have been using the yards. Never trust them!
  • After the stress of being mustered and being “captured” in yards, stock are very keen to escape so any gate open in the direction of their home range is always inviting.  
  • Double check all gate latches, as some may appear to be closed but will burst open under pressure.  And make sure there are no unfamiliar items lying around like paper sacks or drench drums.  Cattle hate “novelty” items.
  • If stock have not been through the yards before, then let them wander through with all gates open.  Then next time run them through and shut them in and let them stand for a while and move around them quietly.  Tie all the dogs up and stop them barking.
  • Carry out any jobs that inflict pain as quickly as possible and release them to stand in a holding yard.
  • Keep stock flowing through the yards where possible letting them take their own time and without a noisy circus of flailing sticks, noisy rattles and barking dogs.
  • Banish any trigger-happy stockpersons who seem to need to poke every beast that goes past them with a stick through the rails.
  • Use electric prodders sparingly and only in emergencies, eg for when a beast goes down and is at risk of being trampled.  Watch out when working with a colleague using a prod as they may prod the beast and you’ll not hear any sound. But you could get the kick meant for them when the beast reacts!
  • When in a yard with cattle, use their point of balance to get them to move forward or back or from side to side.  You can also get stock to move along a race with this technique as they’ll move forward as you walk past them.
  • Use a long stick when drafting to extend your arm, or tie a small flag on the end of the stick.  Make sure you wear safety boots (leather or gumboots) and good strong overalls with no loose attachments.  Be wary of being crushed or rolled against the rails when a beast squeezes past you.
  • Good yards have escape gaps for a slim person to get out of a pen quickly if in danger.  Build these into any new yards and keep the main handling yards free of mud and cow dung to give better foot grip for staff and animals.
  • When drenching stock or treating them with pourons, follow the instructions carefully and wear the appropriate protective clothing such as eye protection, overalls and gloves.
  • It’s always safer to drench stock from outside the race so make sure cat walks on the outside of yards or crush are at a good convenient height for working, so you don’t have to lean over too far when drenching, with the risk of falling in among the stock.  Chicken wire on the cat walk prevents you slipping.
  • If you have to get into a race or crush to drench stock then make sure they are packed tightly and you wear strong protective clothing.  Safety boots are essential and always have an assistant in case of problems.
  • Where injections are involved, take special care that the injections go where they are intended and not into the operator or their assistant.  Have a safe container for used needles and seek medical help if anyone is accidentally injected with an animal remedy.
  • Check for any protruding bolts and nails that work their way out over time.
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