Avoiding slips, trips and splits
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Farms can be dangerous places on foot especially when it’s winter and there is snow and ice about. Although we can’t always prevent all incidents, here are a few tips to help you and your cows avoid slips, trips, and splits.
It's important to have a pair of winter farm boots with a good grip pattern to help prevent slips, trips and splits. In icy conditions, add a pair of ice cleats to help with traction.
When choosing proper farm winter footwear, it is important to have a boot with a good grip pattern, adequate cushioning, and water resistance. Worn out footwear not only can cause joint and back pain but can be a huge player when it comes to slippery surfaces whether it be snow, ice, or mud. If it is really icy, you may want to invest in a pair of ice cleats for your boots. Another key item to look for in a boot is good ankle support. If you do slip or trip, a boot with good ankle support can help lessen the chance of an ankle sprain or more serious injuries.
Icy and wet surfaces
If possible, have a bag of lime near doorways or a pile of sand readily available. Spreading lime or sand will help provide traction on icy or wet surfaces. If you are unsure if a surface is going to be slippery or not, slow down, bend your knees a little and shuffle your feet instead of walking normally. Your center of gravity will be a little lower and your feet will slide along instead of slipping.
The best way to avoid icy slips is to prevent the ice from forming in the first place. If you have metal roofs, you can install snow slides or guards to help prevent snow from shooting off the roof and piling in front of doorways where it tends to thaw and freeze. Also, make sure the land is graded away from buildings and outdoor waterers. Be sure to check waterers on a regular basis for leaks and freeze ups.
It is especially important to move animals in a calm and slow manner when conditions are unfavorable. If you have spread sand/lime on an icy or wet surface and are ready to move the animals, open the gate and let them go at their own pace. It is no fun trying to get a cow up after it has slipped on a patch of ice. Give yourself a little extra time and patience to get them where they need to go.
Parlor and milkhouse floors
Most parlor floors are wet from water, milk, teat dip, and cow excrements and can get slippery in a hurry. Parlor mats can serve numerous purposes. They are perforated to let liquids flow through them, anti-fatigue to help ease back and leg pain, lightweight, slip-resistant, and they come in different colors to choose from.
If there is milk dripped, spilled, or dumped anywhere in the parlor or milkhouse, the milk fat/protein will create a filmy and very slippery surface if not cleaned properly. Replace mats when the slip-resistant bumps are no longer doing their job.
Pen and alley walkways
Regular scraping of pen and alley walkways will help with overall cleanliness and better footing for both humans and bovines. Cows need safe surfaces to walk on to move around and to show heats as well. Do not forget about dry cow and heifer pens; they need regular scraping too.
In addition, proper grooving of concrete also goes a long way. In especially high traffic areas such as walkways, holding areas, and return lanes, a diamond pattern groove can drastically help reduce slipping. When grooving, be sure the surface is not too rough as you do not want it to be abrasive to the cow’s hooves. After a few years of wear and tear, concrete will most likely need to be re-grooved to maintain effectiveness.
Pick up after yourself
Clean up and store all tools, milking equipment, and machinery after using. There is nothing more frustrating than needing a screwdriver or pliers only to realize you can’t find it because you or someone else did not put it away after using it the last time. Teach your children early in life to do the same with outside toys and any tools or equipment they are using. Tears will be shed if a toy, bicycle, tool or ATV gets backed into/ran over because it was not put away in the proper location. It is also no fun to trip over these items or lose them in the mud or snow.
These tips can be used for all the seasons of the year as the weather is always changing. The winter cold will (hopefully) soon be over and the spring thaw (aka mud season) will come. Slow down, be aware of your surroundings, and stay safe out there!