“CATTLE yards only break when you use them.”
It’s an obvious point but an important one particularly for farmers who’ve been putting off long overdue maintenance work on their stockyards.
Mick Debenham from Kardella South is a past president of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association and while he was in the chair, the association released an award winning ‘Guide for Safe Design of Livestock Loading Ramps and Forcing Yards’.
The guide earned a WorkSafe Victoria award and is recognised nationwide as best practice for safety for all concerned.
It is a tool with applications for commercial abattoirs through to hobby farmers.
“We pushed hard for these guidelines,” Mick said.
“We put the guidelines together with full industry consultation.
“Nowhere could you get all of the information in one place.
“It lists all the hazards, risks and controls that can be put in place.”
In his job as cattle transport operator, he knows what works and what doesn’t.
“I speak with a lot of my clients about the loading ramps and stockyards and I’m happy to give advice on making changes.
“Some simple changes can make a big difference.”
Korumburra farmer Alan Ball was going to buy a whole new set of yards, such were his problems with his existing set-up.
“All he had to do was put in a new post, a few rails and some gates, and it’s made a significant improvement,” Mick said.
“It costs $10,000 to $15,000 for a new set of yards but Alan fixed his for less than $1000.”
Alan couldn’t believe the difference the changes have made.
“Previously we couldn’t load cattle properly. They were just running around in circles,” he said.
“They were old dairy yards but with the changes Mick pointed out they’re working beautifully now.
“We’ve lost a bit of room in the yards but it’s so much safer because I’m not in there with them and they don’t have the room to go anywhere else.
“When it’s done, you wonder why you put up with it for so long. I’ve spent a few hundred dollars and it’s now safer and easier.”
Mick said the biggest risk comes when animals and humans share the same confined space.
“The primary objective is to separate yourself from the cattle.”
He said slam-shut gates were a good start.
“You see gates that don’t latch properly or don’t swing, and rails and fences at the point of falling down.
“It can be hard to justify the expense on something you might only use two or three times a year, but a good set of yards can last at least 20 or 30 years.
“Most of the time it’s a lack of knowledge. They don’t realise it’s not safe or there’s a better way of doing things.
“I’m happy to talk to people and provide free advice. By all means, give me a ring or talk to your own carrier.
“Another important thing is to have is a good loading ramp. It has to feel solid to the animal and not feel wobbly or hollow.
“Access can also be a problem. Newer trucks aren’t as good these days off the road in paddocks without gravel.”
For more information, download the guide on the LRTAV website http://lrtav.com.au/ramps/