Working with Livestock

Working with Livestock and safety

Recent dairy farm fatalities involving cattle highlight the risks associated with working with large and sometimes unpredictable animals.

Many dairy workers experience some sort of injury each year as a result of being kicked, stood on or crushed. More serious injuries such as broken bones also occur and some can be fatal.

The risk of injury increases: when working with bulls; or using poorly designed and constructed facilities; or if workers lack experience and knowledge of animal behaviour. Injuries can lead to more serious or fatal outcomes when working alone.

Older farmers may be more skilled in handling cattle but are likely to be less agile and should take steps to reduce risks, such as only working outside yards and races.
If they do fall, older people are more likely to suffer a fracture.

Milking alone: like working remotely, working with livestock is more risky if you are alone. Always have a phone or other method of communication if there is only one person milking.

In addition to physical injuries, cattle can also transfer certain diseases to people with sometimes long-term and debilitating effects. 

As an employer or person conducting a business on the farm you have a legal responsibility to manage risk to health and safety associated with all aspects of working with livestock  

By law, you are responsible for the safety of all the people on your farm, including farm staff, relief milkers, visitors and contractors such as AI technicians, vets and livestock carriers.

A good place to start is Step by step – setting up safety for working with livestock on your farm

Use the resources below to ensure that you comply with this requirement.


The Farm Safety Manual aims to make it straightforward for dairy farmers to build and improve a comprehensive farm safety system.  

Further information
Understanding Flight Zone and Point of Balance and
Behavioural Principles of Livestock Handling for
low stress handling (Temple Grandin)
Guides to cattle handling: FarmSafe / WorkSafe Victoria Websites
Low Stress Dairy e-learning seminars Website
Bull behaviour (Temple Grandin) Website
Management of bulls (Dairy Australia) Website
Guidelines on designing and improving loading ramps Website
Overview of zoonotic diseases (inc. Q Fever – Dairy Australia) Website
Q Fever (National Farmers Federation) Website
Zoonoses – Animal diseases that may also affect humans (Ag Victoria) Website
Cattle behaviour flight zones and point of balance (Teagsac Video
Lameness and cattle behaviour (Dairy Australia) Video