Australian Farm Animals - Adorable and Dangerous

Cattle can become aggravated and charge at people, causing trampling and crush injuries. Their friends often join the fray.
Cattle can become aggravated and charge at people, causing trampling and crush injuries. Their friends often join the fray.

Australian farms, with their diverse array of livestock and native creatures, carry a unique set of hazards that demand preparedness and vigilance from those who work among them.

From the unpredictable behaviour of livestock to encounters with venomous reptiles, it is essential for farmers and rural communities to equip themselves with the knowledge of first aid measures, enabling them to respond effectively to animal-related incidents.

This article discusses the dangers of animals on Australian farms. It looks at common injuries, risks, and ways to prevent harm to people and animals.

Statistics

A 20-year review of animal-related deaths on Australian farms found that more than half occurring during work activities. Horses were involved in 81% of incidences, with cattle the next highest group.

Over half of the fatalities were male, and 46% of cases were involving people over the age of 60.

Amongst those who lost their lives, 85% fell from or were struct by an animal at the time of the incident. 40% involved a head injury.

These results were consistent with previous studies in terms of the leading cause of fatalities. It is important to note however that annualized case numbers have decreased compared to the previous decades.

Common Farm Animals in Australia

Australian farms are home to a diverse array of animals, each playing a vital role in the agricultural landscape.

Among the common livestock species on farms in Australia are:

  • Cattle
  • Sheep
  • Pigs
  • Horses
  • Poultry

These form the backbone of the country's agricultural industry, providing meat, dairy products, wool, and other essential resources. Some less commonly farmed animals include llama, alpaca, camel, and crocodiles.

Additionally, Australian farms may also house working dogs, which assist in herding livestock, and cats, which can both act as mousers and be a pest.

Our unique wildlife can also make appearances on farms, including kangaroos, wallabies, emus, and various bird species. Foxes and camels, both invasive pests in Australia, can wander into farm properties.

Rodents are a persistent issue, causing a range of health and safety concerns.

It is important for farmers to be knowledgeable about the behaviour and potential hazards associated with these animals to ensure their safety and effective management of their farm operations.

Animal behaviour should be well studied before working with any farm animals.
Animal behaviour should be well studied before working with any farm animals.

Risks, Hazards, and Injuries

One of the greatest risks of farm animals is underestimating their power, strength, and temperament.

Some common hazards associated with animals on farms include:

  • Exposure to diseases
  • Musculoskeletal injuries during routine animal activities
  • Falls during riding
  • Animal unpredictability
  • Inadequate fencing and protective barriers

Injuries caused by farm animals can range from superficial to fatal. You are more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark.

Injuries sustained by farm workers and visitors include:

  • Bites and lacerations
  • Bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Being crushed, gored or trampled
  • Head and spinal injuries
  • Blunt force trauma
  • Falls and trips
  • Dislocations
  • Strains and sprains
  • Degenerative joint and muscle damage
  • Occupational hearing damage
  • Hazardous chemical and vaccination exposure

A separate hazard that is often not taken seriously is the risk of needlestick injuries during animal vaccinations. Often, they contain mineral oil adjuncts, which can cause significant injury to a person, even with the smallest of pricks. Contamination from a needlestick injury that is not seen to immediately can result in the need for multiple surgeries and possible loss of limb use.

Safe Practices

There are several ways to increase the safety of all on your farm when working with animals.

  • Never work alone, especially when working with livestock.
  • Gaining good working knowledge of the behaviours and temperaments of the animals on the farm.
  • Observing the animal’s behaviour and adapting accordingly.
  • Respecting the size and strength of animals, as well as claws, hooves, and teeth.
  • Maintaining fencing, yards, gates, and crushes.
  • Designing sheds, races, and yards well for smooth stock flow.
  • Maintaining barriers to avoid contact with animals.
  • Wearing appropriate PPE, including respiratory protection in dusty areas.
  • Wearing a helmet whenever riding or mustering.
  • Ensuring vaccination equipment is well maintained and up to safety standards.
  • Never removing or altering safety mechanisms of equipment related to working with animals.
  • Seeking immediate medical attention in the event of an injury, and not waiting until the work is complete.

First Aid Knowledge

At least one person on the farm should be fully trained in first aid. Preferably, all workers and household members would be trained.

Farm work is isolating, and health and safety issues are numerous. Injuries can quickly escalate while awaiting assistance, so the more people with first aid knowledge the better.

Of note when working with animals are training in procedures for sprains and strains, lacerations and bites, crush injuries, and needlestick injuries.

Good safety practices throughout the work environment and good first aid knowledge save lives.

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