Planning for drenching without pain

Planning for drenching without pain

23 February 2020

With autumn just around the corner, drenching of both cattle and calves will be getting underway, which means close handling of animals.

“When it comes to drenching, there’s no avoiding working closely with cattle,” says Al McCone, Agricultural Lead for WorkSafe.

“That brings with it a number of related risks which need to be managed – the potential for the animals to knock you, kick you, step on your feet or crush you against the side of the race.

“Our statistics show around 944 people get bitten by an animal in the farm workplace during March. The month also sees the highest number of incidents of people being hit by moving objects and among the highest for muscular strains and being trapped between a moving and stationary object,” Says Al.

“So it’s important to plan in advance how you are going to manage those risks and ensure all those who will be working with cattle are appropriately trained, experienced and prepared for the task. They also need to be physically able - drenching cattle is hard work and we know from our statistics that a lot of farm workplace accidents happen to older farmers, in particular those over 65.”

Good advance planning will help you and your team decide how you are going to run the drenching operation safely, including how to avoid getting into the race with the cattle. Using pour-on drench where possible helps minimise risks, particularly with larger animals.

WorkSafe guidance recommends that where pour-on is unsuitable and oral drench is necessary, it’s best to drench animals by leaning over the rail and holding their heads or using a head bail.

Approach the head from the side, not the front. Run your hand from the neck, under the ear and along the jawbone and then cup the jaw in your hand. Keep your head away from the animal’s head. Smaller cattle can be drenched more easily by packing them in tightly in the race – so you can work from the front to back.

Use of personal protective equipment should also be included in planning.

“Check the safety precautions provided by the manufacturer in advance and make sure everyone who is going to be involved in the drenching process knows about these and understands what they need to do to handle the product safely,” says Mr McCone.

“Protective equipment should include boots with steel toe-caps and also take into account the importance of not getting drench on your skin.

“There’s a lot of work to do right now to get farms ready for winter. No farmer wants to see anyone injured on their farm – and it’s challenging to have someone out of action with cracked ribs or a broken foot when there’s lots to be done. By planning in advance, you will be best managing the risks of working at close quarters with your cattle.”

The Safe Cattle Handling Guide can be downloaded from

Article supplied by Worksafe