QMS are encouraging farmers working with calving cows to stay safe and have produced a short video with some practical suggestions to help reduce risk of human injury or loss of life.

Dr Basil Lowman of SAC Consulting, a division of SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College) who features in the video said: “Every farmer knows that even the most docile cows can sometimes be extra-protective towards their calves and therefore, all cows should be treated with respect.”

In the video, Dr Lowman recommends some measures to reduce risks during indoor calving, based on simple planning.

He said: “Three to four weeks before calving is due to start, take family or staff members who will be working with calving cows into the calving area and identify the escape routes and develop additional ones if required. Also, check if you have a mobile signal in the pen so you can call for help if need be.”

The video also highlights simple changes that can be made to the indoor calving environment to help ensure human safety should a cow become aggressive.

“A ring feeder can be a useful tool in a calving pen, either to keep between yourself and the cow or to jump into to call for help,” said Dr Lowman.

“Another option is to erect a temporary electric fence across part of the pen. This can give a quick escape to a safe area if needed and should be put in place two to three weeks before calving starts, to allow the cows time to learn to respect it.”

In the unfortunate event of being knocked down by a cow, Dr Lowman said: "By far the quickest method to get out of the way is to roll away, so it is essential to make sure the gap under gates is large enough, and clear of muck or other obstructions, to get under."

Looking at outdoor calving situations, Dr Lowman’s stressed the value of having a vehicle close by, either to jump into or to roll under if unsafe. He also recommended the use of a calf catcher or ring feeder when tagging calves so they can be handled safely, isolated from their mothers.

All the above are practical measures relating to planning or steps taken during calving. However, the best preventative measure, according to Dr Lowman, is to cull aggressive cows from the herd and, in the case of very aggressive animals, their daughters too.

You can also view the video on the QMS facebook page or on YouTube