By Hilary Parker
Studies show that the majority of new drivers get into accidents not immediately after getting their licenses, but starting at about six months after receiving them — in other words, when they become confident in their driving skills and pay less attention than before. The same can be said of large animal vets. The first time you approached a cow for AI, you were likely a good deal more careful and observant than you are today. Experience has taught you that most cows will stand, or at least kneel, fairly calmly during the process — and while you’ve seen your share of aggressive animals, they’re certainly the exception. You now move with more confidence.
Unfortunately, this means you’re primed for that next on-farm accident. It may be hard to think of it that way — after all, you’re more experienced than you once were — but studies show that cows and horses are the worst offenders when it comes to injuries, so there’s little room for error.
The best way to avoid injury on the job is to ensure you’re not overly fatigued, research shows. Being overworked or otherwise tired not only slows your reaction time, it also tends to cloud your judgment when relating to animals. In addition, just like in auto accidents, speed is frequently a factor, says Lynn Locatelli, DVM, Cattlexpressions, Watrous, N.M. She encourages vets to slow down both for their safety and the safety of those around them as well as because the speed they demonstrate doesn’t endear them to their clients.
“Producers who are calm with their cattle often stay calm and aren’t always impressed with the way a hurried veterinarian handles cattle,” she told Bovine Veterinarian. “Producers who need to work more calmly with their cattle often get into an excited state when a hurried veterinarian works with them.”
Another major preventative step is to speak with all of your clients and their team, making sure they understand the proper safety protocol. You wouldn’t want your client’s herdsman going on the DL, either, right? Also, if you’re running your own shop, ensure you discuss safety with all of your employees. Try pairing new employees with experienced ones for farm visits for six months or so. Teach them how cattle handling facilities should be equipped, complete with properly-constructed animal loading structures to minimize hazards associated with animal transport. Instruct them on how not to position themselves in areas of entrapment, as well as how to monitor cattle for signs of unusual aggression.
And since another big injury is related to strain, particularly when it comes to palpating an animal, don’t forget to use your tools. E.I. Medical makes an accessory for its IBEX called the I.C.E. (IBEX Customizable Extension) that allows for arms-free scanning — a must for those vets who don’t want to be forced into early retirement.
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