Stock Handling & Animal Welfare

‘Days of loading cattle on your own are finished’: ramp safety push

James Nason, 23/04/2019

FIVE deaths and 56 hospitalisations in three years are the sobering statistics behind an industry push for urgent improvements to livestock ramp safety standards in Victoria.

“I think the days of loading cattle on your own are finished,” VFF livestock chair Leonard Vallance told Beef Central this week.

Mr Vallance said at a meeting last week the whole of industry including stock agents, abattoir owners and transporters asked for immediate action to stem the alarming rate of injuries and fatalities involving loading of livestock.

“We have all agreed we have to do something about the deaths in cattle ramps and forcing yards,” Mr Vallance said.

“When you have the whole of industry and they’re all saying let’s get on with it, you know you’re going to get some change.

“What we’re going for is maximum separation in the cattle yards and sheep ramps.”

The call comes as work commences to develop a specific national Australian Standard for the safe design of livestock loading ramps and forcing yards.

There is no stand-alone Australian Standard for livestock loading ramps that addresses specific design considerations including references to all other relevant standards.

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters’ Association Guide for Safe Design of Livestock Loading Ramps and Forcing Yards developed in 2015 will form the initial basis for development of an Australian Standard.

Loading ramps are the most dangerous area of livestock holding facilities, according to the ALRTA, with a lack of consistent national rules creating an unacceptable level of unnecessary risk associated with crushing, lacerations and slips, trips and falls.

The guide was developed in consultation with animal producers, transporters, feedlots, saleyards, exporters, equipment manufacturers, welfare groups and safety authorities.

The Australian Standard being developed will include general design principles to promote smooth flow of livestock and keep livestock and people physically separated.

It will also include specifications on

  • vehicle access
  • ramps, height of side rails and internal width for intended stock to be handled
  • Surfaces, non-slip, angle and length of ramp
  • Side sheeting infill
  • Supports, structural integrity
  • Gates, latches, hinges and restricted use of chains
  • Walkways, ladders, steps and platforms
  • End of ramp buffers, bridging flaps and accessibility
  • Guards
  • Winches, and load bearing fixing points
  • Lighting
  • Personnel access
  • Operational signage

The process is expected to take until mid-2020 to complete.

While the national standard is being developed Mr Vallance said the Victorian livestock industry is working with WorkSafe Victoria to implement strong recommendations on changes that need to be made to improve safety in relation to livestock loading infrastructure and practices on farms and in saleyards, feedlots and abattoirs.

VFF Livestock president Leonard Vallance

He said the VFF is talking to the Victorian Government about available funding to help with the cost of making improvements to existing ramps.

“But let’s face it, are you running a business or running handout service?” he said.

“It is in your own best interests, you’re talking to a bloke that has been flown to the hospital and had his clothes cut off him, so I know what the bad end of it looks like.

“It is about a massive cultural change.

“And when you go to the animal welfare side of it the most stressful part of an animal’s life is the loading and unloading off trucks.”


Further information:

WorkSafe Victoria information sheet: Seperation of people and cattle while loading

New pivoting access landing a big winner for stock transport safety, efficiency + VIDEO

Frasers Transport streamlines cross-loading process (+ VIDEO)


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  1. Adam tortens, 04/05/2019

    I had time to read beef central my dad read this with me

  2. Dean Shenfield, 25/04/2019

    Your take common sense away, you’re going to have accidents. Complacency causes accidents!!

  3. Matthew Della Gola, 24/04/2019

    I sympathize with anyone who has been injured whilst handling livestock. We can never argue against the moral highground but unfortunately its part of the many risks present when working in the industry. Im all for being on the front foot regarding safety of humans and animals i dont think it is practical to assume that every livestock producer (family operated) could afford such modifications. Unfortunately we will battle against office based intellects that need to justify their positions. The one thing we cant teach or legislate against is complacency and common sense. I was under the impression the national livestock industry wanted less burdon and red tape. As a young producer all i can see is ways to distract, penalize and hold us back. Just like the road toll there is no such thing as zero unless we a stop driving.

  4. John Bowman, 24/04/2019

    My local stock transporter has a remote control on the back door of his truck so is able to walk up the personal access ramp beside the cattle ramp lean over to prod stock up the ramp and as the last beast enters the the truck he presses the remote control and the back door closes. So many other ramp that have personal access ramps that I see still need to operator to enter the ramp at the last minute to side the back door closed and this is the most dangerious time for cattle to turn aound.
    A remote control door is a major step forward for operator safety in loading or untloading livestock!
    John Bowman, Livestock extension officer Ag Victoria

  5. Paul D. Butler, 23/04/2019

    How did any of the old drovers/cattlemen ever live without government specifications and guidelines on how to handle cattle?

  6. Prue Lee, 23/04/2019

    Good facilities plus quiet cattle makes a huge difference.

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