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Stockyard design

Many accidents occur on farms as a result of run-down and unsafe stockyards. Poorly designed stockyards result in more handling hours and increase the risk of injury to both the handler and stock.

Stockyards are a large investment so it is important to ensure the design, site and materials are well researched and will improve the work environment for both animals and operators.

Existing yards may need to be rebuilt if safety is seriously compromised and modifications look to be quite extensive. This is an ideal opportunity to look at innovative designs that not only boost productivity, but help make animal handling safer and more humane.

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Stockyard design

Animal handling incidents in stockyards can result in:

  • limb fractures
  • contusions
  • abrasions
  • crushing injuries
  • fatalities.

One of the major risk control measures is to design the layout of stockyards or handling facilities to separate, wherever possible, interactions between livestock and people.

A well designed stockyard will improve your livestock handling operation resulting in:

  • reduction in worker injures
  • low stress handling of animals
  • less bruising of livestock
  • reduction in labour to efficiently handle livestock
  • timely husbandry.

When planning stockyard design there are many factors to consider including:

  • the ability to handle current and future workloads and the ability to cater for various stock handling operations
  • yard capacity, the slope of the site and floor/ground surface
  • surfaces that reduce the risk of trips and falls
  • separation of people from livestock
  • the activities that need to be carried out in the yards, examples include
    • receiving and holding
    • drafting
    • weighing
    • drenching
    • vaccination
    • ear tagging
    • pregnancy testing
    • loading and unloading
  • the design to best achieve maximum efficiencies
  • yard construction materials - whether the stockyard is manufactured from steel or timber will largely depend on available materials, cost, ease of erection, access to labour and ongoing maintenance. Other building materials include - gate latches, hand and knee rails and kick boards which must meet Australian standards
  • clear space ahead of livestock
  • reducing distractions to draw livestock through yards and races
  • self-latching gates, ready access and escape points
  • flexibility to cater for various stock handling operations

Stockyard maintenance

Simple repairs can go a long way to protecting workers and livestock. Consider:

  • fixing protruding nails, bolts, wire, broken rails
  • ensuring that gates swing freely
  • keeping the crush and bail head in good working order.

Access to stockyards

Access to stockyards should consider the flow of livestock trucks and farm utes as much as how livestock and people will access the yards. Hazards such as the proximity of powerlines, structures and domestic premises must be managed during initial panning, or when redesigning access points.

Design safety checklist – hazard audit

Are receiving yards big enough for expected mob sizes?   
Are there any blind spots in the yards which could cause stock to baulk?   
Are all gates in good working order, swing clear of the ground and able to be secured while both open and closed?   
Are gate latches in good working order, mounted at an appropriate height and designed so they don't cause pinching or crushing?   
Are there any projecting bolts, nails or wire that could cause injury to workers or stock?   
Are there any uneven or boggy areas that could cause slips or trips?   
Are there escape routes or safe areas for workers in the drafting and forcing yards?   
Does the gate into the round yard/forcing pens swing easily and can be secured quickly?   
Is the yard and appropriate size for the classes of stock being handled?   
Does the rail spacing allow safe access to animals for tasks to be undertaken such as vaccinating?   
Are the race and gate caps secure and at a safe working height so as not to interfere with handling operations?   
Are all sliding gates sound, easily operated and capable of being secured so that they will not open if kicked or struck?   
Do sliding gates have handles and guards to prevent the operators hand entering any gaps between the slide gates an support posts, which could be nip or crush points?   
Are there any excessive gaps between the slide gates and support posts which could be crush points?   
Is there safe access to the work area to remove animals that might go down or become jammed?   
Does the ramp have an apron of 1–1.5 metres at the end to allow the opening and closing of truck gates?   
Is there a sliding gate at the top of the ramp that can be accessed safely to secure animals on the truck once it is loaded?   
Does the ramp have a catwalk of 1–1.5 metres minimum width on at least one side of the ramp?   
Are watering points and troughs in sound order and positioned where they don't pose a trip, slip or fall hazard?   
Are there options for dust control including water for sprinkler or irrigation systems?   
Are water pipes buried, or placed overhead or along railing systems so as not to create a trip hazard?