Cattle can pose danger at sale barns

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Farm Forum

Cows may look cute and cuddly — or even tasty on a bun — but for the crew at Hub City Livestock, cattle are the most dangerous livestock they handle.

And they handle a lot of them. Last year, that was around 260,000 cattle, according to Steve Hellwig, co-owner of Hub City Livestock.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most dangerous, Hellwig rates herding and sorting cattle at 8.5 or 9.

“The safest person in the world is going to get hurt if a cow turns on them,” Hellwig said.

It’s not due to claws or teeth.

“It’s the speed of the cattle and the size of the cattle,” Hellwig said.

Accidents and injuries are avoided by staying alert and being aware of the situation at hand.

“If you know what you’re doing and paying attention, you’re all right,” he said. If “you get a little lackadaisical and lose your train of thought … we’d had some people get hurt.”

Small injuries, such as bruises and bumps, are considered part of the job, he said. More serious injuries, such as broken bones, aren’t that common, though. The serious injuries are low, Hellwig said, because Hub City Livestock places emphasis on training and safety.

“Safety is 100 percent of the time,” Hellwig said. “We train employees to know where to be and how to handle the cattle.”

Before letting employees herd or sort the cows by themselves, Hellwig said the employee shadows an experienced associate. Part of that training includes reinforcing attentiveness.

“You have to always pay attention to what you’re doing and that’s how you stay safe here,” he said.

In addition, Hub City screens the applicants.

“This is a challenging job. It’s not for everyone,” he said.

Although experience isn’t required, they do prefer that applicants have some knowledge. There will still be a training period, though.

“Even a kid who’s worked on the farm isn’t ready for a job like this right off the bat,” Hellwig said.

Accidents can happen, even with training and watchfulness.

“Most of the times when we have an accident, it’s not the person’s fault. It’s just an accident,” he said.

As Hellwig explained it, even the tamest cow can feel stressed or threatened and react violently.

“Every cow has a breaking point. Don’t turn your back on them,” he said.

“I’m not saying all cattle are dangerous. One percent of the cattle are dangerous. The rest are just fine.”

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Hub City Livestock

• Animals sold include hogs, sheep, horses, goats and cows.

• During the busy season, Hub City has three sales a week.

• Last year, the crew handled around 260,000 cattle.