When working with dairy bulls, be vigilant

Hoard's Dairyman: 

When working with dairy bulls, be vigilant

Date: 
Sat, 08/06/2011

Whether you work with bulls every day or once a year, remember to be cautious.

We all know someone affected by an encounter with a dairy bull. These encounters don’t end well for anyone involved and could be avoided.

Dairy farmers keep bulls for a couple of reasons. It can provide supplementary income to farmers who sell several bulls for breeding purposes. Bulls can also be a cost-effective way to breed a herd (no technician fees or semen costs) or as “clean-up” to get problem cows bred. Few bulls are kept solely for the show ring, as a vast majority of shows have eliminated their bull classes.

How bulls are raised has an effect on their behavior later in life. Temple Grandin's website contains useful information about preventing bull accidents. She cites University of California data that suggests bulls raised in group pens with other bulls are less likely to be aggressive than those raised individually. By minimizing contact with humans, they are less likely to see a human as a threat to their dominance.

Never handle a bull alone. Always have an exit strategy if something goes wrong. Many farms have dogs that are well-trained to keep bulls at bay while working around them.

Bulls show many forms of aggression, according to this article. Lowering their head, arching their back, and pawing the ground are all ways that bulls try to look as large as possible. When a bull begins to act aggressively, it is best to back up slowly and find your way to the nearest exit. Running causes the bull to feel threatened.

The best way to not get injured by a bull is to not have one on the farm. If, through careful analysis, bulls are still necessary as a source of income or for reproductive efficiency, remember to keep the above guidelines in mind. Any bull that exhibits aggressive behavior should be culled immediately. Most importantly, be safe.