There's a simple solution to improve livestock loading, say carriers

Livestock truckies plead: Get ramps up to standard

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Livestock loading ramps can be improved with minimum effort and money.

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SAFE GATE: Romsey livestock transporter John Beer, demonstrates the simple safety solution, a gate at the top of the ramp, which helps separate stock and drivers.

SAFE GATE: Romsey livestock transporter John Beer, demonstrates the simple safety solution, a gate at the top of the ramp, which helps separate stock and drivers.

A simple upgrade costing several hundred dollars would improve cattle loading and unloading immensely, according to Romsey livestock transporter John Beer.

Mr Beer said installation of gates, which should cost as little as $300, would go a long way to separating stock and drivers.

He said that could be done before more extensive safety upgrades were done to loading ramps.

He believed fitting a "slam-shut" gate in a forcing yard, or one at the top of the ramp, could be done with little effort.

"To fix up a fair percentage of the ramps is not hard," he said.

"They can bring them up to standard, without spending a lot of money.

"So don't get scared, a lot of people could make the gate themselves, so it could cost between $300-$400."

Ongoing risks

Mr Beer said he'd recently been kicked in the hand - "it blew up like a football."

That was on top of many injuries, during his time carting livestock.

"I've had a broken shoulder blade, broken ribs and been carried by a bullock down a ramp," he said.

Mr Beer said he'd like to see all facilities comply with the first Australian Standard for Livestock loading/unloading ramps and forcing pens was released last November.

The standard is a guide to the safe design and use of loading ramps.

Mr Beer said there were still a lot of ramps being sold, which didn't meet the standard.

"They are cheap, so that's what farmers are buying," he said.

The ramp standard was all about separating animals and drivers.

"But we are still getting brand new facilities that are not being built to the standard," Mr Beer said.

"We are hoping WorkSafe will put a stop to that, in the future."

The only injuries that were reported were those where drivers "were carted off to hospital, because we keep working on, if we can."

Livestock transporters were afraid of reporting injuries, he said.

They feared they would not be employed to cart cattle from the property, yards or abattoirs where they were hurt.

"There is no data on all the stuff that goes on, in farms, abattoirs and yards," Mr Beer said.

"But if you want to have animal welfare you have to have driver and operator welfare - it goes hand in hand."

New yards

NEW SYSTEM: LarnOO farm manager Jarrod McKay in the property's new yards.

NEW SYSTEM: LarnOO farm manager Jarrod McKay in the property's new yards.

LarnOO, Ghin Ghin, farm manager Jarrod McKay said the property had installed new yards about nine months ago, after concerns about occupational health and safety as well as animal welfare.

"There was an old set of timber yards, which were pretty ordinary to work in," Mr McKay said.

They were deemed unsafe and inefficient by the LarnOO team, despite being able to hold a large number of cattle.

Mr McKay said the new yards were more efficient and cattle left the yards a lot happier than they used to.

"We run 3000 head so there might be 6000 movements through, every year," he said.

After LarnOO bought an adjacent property, new fencing, laneways, irrigation and pumping infrastructure had been completed.

Mr McKay said that led to the installation of the new cattle handling facility, which was considered necessary to improve livestock management.

"The whole setup is much more efficient," he said.

Victorian survey

A 2020 survey of Victorian livestock transport drivers and operators has found most fail to report injuries suffered as a result of using ramps and force pens.

Former Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association national animal welfare committee chair Mick Debenham said 63 per cent of respondents had not reported injuries that required medical treatment.

Mr Debenham said the new national ramp standard was strongly supported by the livestock supply chain.

It was based on the pre-existing Guide for Safe Design of Livestock Loading Ramps and Forcing Yards, he said.

Those who followed the guide would generally meet the standard.

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