Saturday, December 2, 2023

Top tips from farmers to reduce injuries over calving

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The busy calving period is a time when farmers often suffer from strains and sprains but DairyNZ and ACC are working on innovations to help minimise these.
DairyNZ has partnered with ACC to design and develop creative solutions to reduce injuries particularly over calving. One concept is the easy-entry calf trailer with a spring-loaded and self-closing saloon door.
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By Callum Eastwood, DairyNZ senior scientist

This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

It’s been great to be able to get out and about more this year, connecting in-person again with farmers at events. 

We have been talking about a range of topics, and there has been a focus on keeping our staff safe and well by reducing injuries over calving. 

Research has shown that sprains and strains make up around 40% of all dairy farm injuries, particularly between August and October during spring calving. 

These mainly occur when farmers are:

• Collecting calves from the paddock

• Lifting/feeding calves or buckets of milk

• Cupping cows, particularly on rotaries

• Slipping or tripping on uneven ground or pipes/hoses

With this focus around on-farm safety, DairyNZ has partnered with ACC through the ACC Workplace Injury Prevention Grants. Through this we are designing and developing creative solutions with farmers that support a sector-wide reduction in sprains and strains, particularly over calving. 

We know this time of year is busy enough, without additional injury to yourself or someone on your team. 

DairyNZ is passionate about ensuring solutions, which not only sound good on paper but help and are practical to implement in real life. That’s why we co-design innovative farm safety solutions with farmers, to understand how to improve safety during day-to-day calving activities. 

Farmers are part of the initial designs, and they test all concepts on farm to further refine the solutions, determine if they are practical and help solve the problems identified.  

It’s been exciting sharing these prototypes with farmers at recent events. This included showcasing them at the Innovation Hub at Fieldays, which provided a great opportunity for farmers to come and see the concepts in person. 

One entry was our easy-entry calf trailer, with a spring-loaded and self-closing saloon door. This enables easier, faster and safer calf loading, to reduce injuries associated with collecting calves. 

Other concepts include a calf-rearing area pedestrian gate, flexible breast rail, new milking cluster design, cups on mat design and a bucket lifting trolley. 

While we continue working on trialling and improving our concepts, I still encourage you to focus on the physical and mental wellbeing of yourselves and your team over calving. 

Here are a few top tips from farmers that can help reduce injury during calving season:

• Have two staff pick up heavier calves together if needed 

• Use a specialised trailer to transport calves 

• Pipe milk into calf feeders instead of lifting buckets 

• Tuck hoses away after use in the milking shed  

• Invest in the right footwear – look for great grip and ankle support 

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