Livestock producers need to take precautions and be prepared to implement safety procedures when having visitors or tours on their farm or when exhibiting animals, to prevent risk of injury to both humans and animals, says a beef cattle expert with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
That's especially true when visitors to farms or other livestock exhibits don't have a background in production agriculture and have little understanding of the process of food production, said John Grimes, beef coordinator for Ohio State University Extension and a member of the OSU Extension Beef Team. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.
With the warmer weather come more opportunities for public interactions on farms or at events where livestock are exhibited, Grimes said. In these instances, producers shouldn't make any assumptions when it comes to the general public's knowledge of animals, including how to stay safe around them, he said.
"As a livestock producer, there may be times when individuals come to your farm to observe your operation or you have an opportunity to visit with individuals unfamiliar with animal agriculture," Grimes said. "But you can't assume that all people have awareness of how to behave around animals ‚Äî you have to be on your guard at all times.
"No matter how safe you think you are on the farm, anything can happen. Livestock aren't pets; they are animals that are being raised for food production. Don't assume that everyone knows that."
For producers, that means taking precautions to ensure you have adequate and secure fencing to keep animals and people out of harm's way, he said.
"While livestock producers can't prepare for every possible scenario, we must have facilities that minimize the risk of injury to humans and animals," he said. "We should always be prepared to offer the general public a positive view of what production agriculture is.
"Producers should also take steps to educate the public about the methods our industry takes to produce a safe, wholesome food product."
Safety precautions producers can take include:
- Fencing must contain your animals where they are supposed to be located and should account for any size and gender differences between animals.
- When interacting with individuals on the farm or in a public situation, take the time to educate them about proper animal husbandry production practices that relate to food production.
- Be prepared to implement safety procedures when the opportunity for human-animal interaction exists on your farm or at a show where you may be exhibiting animals.
And most importantly, producers shouldn't take anything for granted, Grimes said.
"Don't assume everything is as secure as you think it is," Grimes said. "For liability reasons, take the extra precautions needed to make sure you aren't negligent and avoid any unsafe situations for both animals and people."