Safe cattle handling: Mustering

Mustering is a dangerous activity. Make sure everyone on your farm who is mustering knows how to muster safely. Use this quick guide to check if you are mustering safely.


Assess the safety of your mustering

Improve the safety of your mustering

Make sure everyone knows how to muster safely

Before anyone starts mustering, make sure they know how:

  • to safely operate farm machinery
  • cattle behave and how their herding instincts play a part in mustering
  • your farm musters
  • to identify no-go zones on the farm

Closely supervise new cattle handlers until you are sure they are competent and can do the job safely.

Explain the terrain

  • Create a farm map and give to all cattle handlers. Include paddock numbers or names and terrain information.
  • Drive your cattle handlers around the farm during induction. Show them the terrain and explain the tasks they will be doing, including the danger points.
  • Create a system for cattle handlers to alert each other to changes in terrain.

Have a pre-start chat

  • Have a safety discussion before starting mustering to discuss:
    • the plan for the day
    • terrain to be covered
    • cattle temperament and behaviour and best approach for low stress stock handling
    • personal protective equipment
    • no-go zones
    • speed limits

De-brief at the end of the day

After mustering is done for the day, chat again about:

  • what worked well
  • anything that went wrong or didn’t work as expected
  • what can be done better next time
  • any safety hazards anyone saw, such as boggy terrain

Select the right vehicle for the job

  • Consider whether a ute, side-by-side, quad bike, horse or on-foot is best.
  • If using machinery, check it is maintained and safe for use.
  • Ensure manufacturers' instructions followed, for example wearing helmets.
  • Consider using other means to muster such as the use of drones, or the support of a competent cattle dog.

Avoid mustering alone where possible

Where possible, make sure at least two people are mustering together. If you must muster on your own, make sure you reduce the risk.

Your responsibilities under the law

As a farmer you may be self-employed, employ people, or manage and control a farm. Regardless, you have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 which can include ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • you provide a farm that is a safe working environment without risks to the health of your employees and contractors
  • your farm activities don't expose persons other than employees, for example family, or visitors, to health and safety risks
  • that people, including people making deliveries on the farm, can enter and leave the farm safely, and without risk to their health
  • you consult with your employees and contractors about health and safety on your farm

More information and advice