Session 8:
Handling Animals

At the end of this session you will be able to:

  • Identify the correct way to handle animals.
  • Identify significant dangers associated with handling animals.
  • Plan accordingly for handling animals.


Being killed by an animal is the second highest cause of death in farming.

A total of 28 people lost their lives over the past five years as a result of being injured by cattle and bulls.

Handling cattle and livestock always involves risks: the risk of being hurt physically by an animal that is frightened or has been startled and the risk of being hurt due to poorly-thought-out handling facilities, the misuse of or failure to maintain equipment.

Introduction to handling animals

Look at the video and note down the key points.

Cattle – what are the risks?

Handling cattle always involves a risk of injury from crushing, kicking, butting or goring.

The risk is greater if the animals have not been handled frequently, such as those from hills or moorland, sucklers or newly-calved cattle.

Certain jobs may increase the risk, eg veterinary work.

Attempting to carry out stock tasks on unrestrained cattle or with makeshift equipment is particularly hazardous.

Never underestimate the risk from cattle, even with good precautions in place.

How to minimize the risks?

Ensure there are proper handling facilities, including well-maintained and -designed holding pens and race, and a crush that are in good working order. Makeshift gates and hurdles are not sufficient, and will result in less efficient handling as well as risking injury.


Cattle Race

Animals should be able to readily enter the race, which should have a funnel end. Make sure there is enough room in the collecting pen for them to feed into the funnel easily. A circular collecting pen means workers can stand safely behind a forcing gate as they move animals into the race, and keep the animals moving. Animals need to see clearly to the crush and beyond, so that they will readily move along the race.
The race may be curved, but should not include tight turns. Animals prefer to move towards a light area than into the dark. The sides of the race should be high enough to prevent animals from jumping over them; secure them properly secured to the ground and to each other for maximum strength. Sheet the sides of the race to help keep cattle moving by reducing visual disturbances such as shadows and other animals.
Contain the lead animal in the race while it waits its turn to enter the crush. Hinged or sliding doors are suitable, make sure you operate them from the working side of the race. Never work on an animal in the crush with an unsecured animal waiting in the race behind.

Cattle Crush


A crush should allow you to do most straightforward tasks. It should:

  • have a locking front gate and yoke (ideally self-locking) allowing you to hold the animal’s head firmly. Additional head restraint will prevent the animal tossing its head up and injuring people;
  • have a rump rail, chain or bar to minimize forward and backward movement of the animal.

The crush should be:-

  • be secured to the ground or, if mobile, to a vehicle;
  • be positioned to allow you to work safely around it, without the risk of contact with other animals, and have good natural or artificial lighting;
  • allow gates to open smoothly with the minimum of effort and noise. Regular maintenance will help;
  • have a slip-resistant floor, made of sound hardwood bolted into place (nails are not suitable), metal chequer plate, or with a rubber mat over the base.

Bulls - what are the risks?

Accidents, some of them fatal, happen every year because bulls are not treated with respect. Remember, a bull can kill you when he is being playful just as easily as when he is angry. Make sure you can handle your bull safely.

  • All bulls should be kept in a purpose-made bull pen.  Ensure external doors and gates are locked or otherwise secured to prevent unauthorised access. Catches should be stock proof.
  • Where possible feed and water from outside the pen, e.g. through a feeding hatch.
  • Where possible include an outside area for the bull to go in, to allow bedding up or cleaning the inside.

Sheep Handling System

  • Sheep are much less likely to cause severe injury or death.
  • However having a good system can make the tasks easier and also reduce back injuries.
  • It also improves the welfare of the sheep when handled.
Sheep Pen

Assessment for learning


Watch the clip and complete a checklist for an ideal cattle handling system.

Create an ideal handling system for a farm of your choice either cattle or beef.


As you can see, animals can be dangerous. Having the correct handling facilities can make dealing with them safer.

There are certain key principles when it comes to handling animals. This can change depending on the time of year and the stage at which the animal is at, e.g. a cow can be quiet until it calves. It can then become very protective of the calf and attack the farmer.

A good handling facility can prevent injury and death.