Having equipment in good condition is a must no matter what you are doing. Whether it’s playing sports or working in a doctor's office or doing schoolwork or fixing a vehicle, you need good equipment. No one would go to a dentist's office that had rusty, old dental mirrors. Working and taking care of your cattle should be no different. It’s dangerous for you and your cows.

Bovines are responsible for 22 deaths every year in the United States. In Canada there are 65 deaths per year due to cattle. In Ireland cattle make up 42% of farm injuries, with 18 deaths since 2008. Injuries are more common when working, handling, loading, moving or feeding cattle. However, low-quality cattle equipment puts the risk higher with broken arms, pinched fingers, dislocated shoulders and tons more. Statistics also show 24% of livestock handlers are injured every year, with 47% caused by improper facilities. This honestly is a number which should be zero but lowering this statistic can be done very easily by making sure you are prioritizing safety and taking preventative measures.

Most operations settle for lower quality equipment because it’s cheaper, they did not research all the options and they build their own. Now I’m not against redneck ingenuity, by all means go for it, just make sure it’s safe and kept up.

Most areas of injury come from tubs, alleys and chutes. Tubs and alleys are pretty easy to prevent injury on — be aware of your surroundings and get out of the way when needed.

Cattle chutes can be more difficult. Make sure your chute has an easily adjusted, durable squeeze mechanism. Applying a tight squeeze pressure will help keep your cattle calm. In addition, make sure of sternum and rump bars to prevent cattle from kicking or falling down.

Also, use low stress handling techniques, use common sense, and keep a first-aid kit around.

Schiereck is the El Dorado Springs FFA chapter president.

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