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Care In Handling Cattle

1 February 2017

I was recently chatting to a “mature” AI operator who had more experience in handling cattle, both beef and dairy, than anyone else I know.  We were discussing being kicked, particularly when pushing cattle up a race.  His experience was that it was the smaller hill breeds which were most likely to kick, often as a mule kick ie with both feet at the same time.  Bigger heavier cattle he felt were more likely to bump you with their head.  He argued that the hill breeds were closer in their ancestry to having to defend their calf against predators by kicking out with their hind feet.

My suggestion was it could be simply physics.  Hill breeds are lighter and smaller/shorter so it is easier for the cow to lift up her backend, lash out with both feet and still have time to position her legs so as she lands standing on all 4 feet.  The bigger longer heavier cows, although heavier muscled, do not have the strength to lift their backend far enough off the ground to allow them to kick out with both feet and still land correctly.  This of course doesn’t mean that they can’t kick back with a single foot but the danger area will be much lower.

The moral of the story is always take care pushing animals up a race but particularly when handling small light breeds who have the physical build to mule kick.  In addition if you are going to encourage them with a stick make sure it is at least as long as the cow is high so you stay out of kicking range.

Basil Lowman,

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