Safe cattle yards: Drafting

Drafting is the process of separating cattle into smaller lots for management purposes. For example, separating calves from cows. Use this quick guide to check the safety of your drafting.


Assess the safety of your drafting

Improve the safety of your drafting

Drafting is one of the most dangerous tasks to be undertaken in cattle yards. It requires trained and experienced cattle handlers, and wherever possible separation of people and cattle.

Avoid drafting cattle alone

Drafting cattle alone is unsafe. If you can't avoid someone drafting cattle alone, make sure they stay separate from the cattle wherever possible.

Keep people and cattle separate

Wherever possible, avoid people being in with the cattle when drafting.

If anyone needs to be in with the cattle make sure:

  • There are easy to access escape routes that:
    • everyone knows about before you start drafting
    • do not require climbing over or under fences or rails
    • are wide enough for people, but not cattle
  • Gates are easy to move and close.
  • Appropriate PPE is worn.

Make sure everyone knows how to draft cattle safely

Before anyone starts drafting make sure they know how to:

  • safely operate the gates
  • locate and use escape routes
  • assess the behaviour of cattle and identify any concerns and hazards
  • use the appropriate techniques for the pen size and number of cattle being drafted

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

Have a pre-start chat

Have a safety discussion before you start drafting to:

  • go over the plan for drafting, including identifying positioning
  • show cattle handlers how the gates operate
  • remind cattle handlers to ensure gates are securely closed before moving into the flight zone of cattle in the pen
  • show cattle handlers where the escape routes are
  • make sure you have enough cattle handlers to draft safely
  • remind cattle handlers to remain alert to the behaviour of the cattle and what other cattle handlers are doing

Have an emergency procedure

You need to have an emergency procedure in place before you start drafting. Make sure everyone knows what the procedure is and what they need to do if something goes wrong.

Position and use gates with safety in mind

People can be seriously injured:

  • if they are standing behind an open gate that gets kicked by a cow, steer or bull
  • when a gate catch is not strong enough to stay securely shut when a cow, steer or bull turns back or charges

Making small changes to the flow of the yard and where gates are positioned could avoid injury or save a life.

When positioning your gate make sure it is flush with the yard wherever possible. Consider setting the gate in a position that you can easily grab it when you want to close it. If you are manually closing gates from inside the yards, always consider the position of your escape routes.

When moving gates always keep two hands on the gate rail at shoulder height.

When you have shut the gate always test that it is securely closed.

Ensure the gates in your drafting areas are kept well maintained so you can open and close them easily.

Make sure your surfaces are safe

The surfaces of your yards are important for the safety of both people and cattle. Uneven ground, rocks or debris can cause tripping hazards for cattle handlers. Boggy yards often mean that rubber boots need to be worn and pugging occurs, causing slippery and uneven surfaces.

Long term cattle management approaches

There are also long term approaches to cattle management to help make drafting safer. These include:

  • Breeding for temperament.
  • Using artificial insemination rather than having aggressive bulls on site.
  • Undertaking yard acclimatisation with cattle on a regular basis.

Use the safest drafting layout for your cattle and yards

There are many different layouts used for drafting across Victoria. Some are safer than others.

Improve your design over time

Utilise the latest understanding of cattle behaviour. Discuss with yard manufacturers and others to achieve yards where there is separation of people and cattle wherever possible. Ensure that you have good flow so that cattle can be worked through yards freely, without having to be forced.

Talk to the people who use your yards

People who work in many different yards are a great resource. Having safety conversations with the different people who use your yard can help you identify hazards and solutions.

If you are an employer, you also have a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) to consult with your employees and contractors about health and safety. You can do this by making safety conversations a normal part of how you work.

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 OHS Act 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

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