Youth Livestock Safety - 1 - Beef Safety: Take Good Care of Yourself

Beef Safety Lessons Overview

4-H Lifeskills: Managing self, solving problems, making decisions


Beef project members will:

  • Describe how you can be hurt while working with beef animals.
  • Recognize how work habits affect your personal safety and the animals you work with.
  • Demonstrate use of appropriate personal protection equipment and clothing choices for working with beef animals at home and at shows.
  • Understand how to keep yourself and others safe at public shows.
  • Be familiar with how to include members with disabilities in beef project activities.

Beef Safety Lesson 1: Take Good Care of Yourself

Livestock are involved in many youth injury incidents every year. Because of their size compared to the size of the youth who own and work with them, show steers and heifers can be particularly dangerous. This lesson is designed to teach best practices for personal safety when working with beef animals raised or purchased for the purpose of showing at livestock exhibitions. It should be used with other beef project materials.

Safe working habits include protecting yourself, your animals, and others. The most common injuries from working with and/or showing steers and heifers are:

  • Slips / Falls
  • Muscle and/or back strain
  • Cuts, scrapes, and bruises from being kicked or stepped on
  • Blisters and burns from lead ropes or electrical appliances such as clippers

Less common injuries from working with and/or showing beef animals:

  • Breathing problems from inhaling dust, animal dander, or chemicals
  • Serious injury – such as broken bones, amputations, puncture wounds
  • Practice personal safety by using personal protection equipment and developing safe working habits, including:

    • Closed-toe shoes or boots – sturdy, leather, over-the-ankle fit with non-slip soles
    • Gloves – Different jobs require different gloves
    • Leather gloves protect hands from rope burns while leading your show steer or heifer
    • Latex or rubber gloves protect your hands and forearms while washing and grooming.

    Long sleeves and long pants protect your skin from being exposed to:

  • Too much sunlight
  • Dirt and dander from your show steer or heifer
  • Safety glasses protect your eyes from hair clippings, dirt, and grooming products. When working in bright sunlight, try tinted safety glasses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays.

    Ear plugs protect your ears when using motorized equipment, such as the clippers or blower and when working in an enclosed area where noises are loud.

    Frequent hand washing protects your skin whenever you work with your livestock. Animals can easily and unknowingly spread disease to humans. Frequent contact with the animal’s hide, dander, and feces – especially from washing and grooming tasks – creates an opportunity for disease to pass from your show steer or heifer to you. An example is ringworm in cattle.

    Learn first aid and keep a first aid kit in your show box and in the barn or building where you stall your show steer or heifer.

    Do I Really Need Protection? – How You Can Be Hurt Working with Show Steers and Heifers

    The steer or heifer gets frightened and runs, jumps, or kicks. You slip, trip, or fall over things left laying around, on a slick walkway, in a pen, or on an uneven surface (such as in sand in the show ring or uneven surfaces in the cattle lot). You get kicked, stepped on, or tripped while leading, moving, feeding, or grooming your animal. You get a rope burn from the lead rope. Your fingers get pinched in a gate latch; you get poked by a wire, the blades on the clippers, or the teeth on the curry comb. You can strain muscles in your arms, legs, or back by carrying heavy show boxes or buckets of feed. Frequent washing and grooming can cause muscle strains from frequently repeated movements, as in the up and down, back and forth of clipping and combing.

    Try This!

    Practice safe lifting and carrying to protect your back. Here’s how:

    • Stand close to object to be lifted;
    • Spread your feet wide enough to straddle the object;
    • Squat, bending your knees and hips;
    • Keep your head up and your back straight;
    • Hold in your stomach muscles;
    • Lift using your leg muscles;
    • Keep the load close to your body with a firm grip;
    • Turn your feet, not your back, in the direction you are going

    Did You Know?

    Ergonomists (scientists who study human body function) say the three worst problems for agriculture are: full body stoop (bending forward and down from the waist, as when picking up feed bags, buckets, or show boxes); lifting/moving heavy objects (greater than 15% of body weight, i.e. feed bags, show boxes, pulling on a show animal’s lead rope); and repetitive handwork (as when you are washing and grooming).

    You are more likely to hurt your back when:

    • Lifting more than 15% of your body weight
    • Carrying a load more than 10-15 yards
    • Use wheels to help carry loads; such as a wheeled dolly, a feed cart, a wheel barrow, or a wheeled utility cart.

    Discussion Questions

    With your project group members, discuss how you stay safe when working with your show steer or heifer.


    How did you feel the first time you worked with your show steer or heifer? What do you wear when feeding your show steer or heifer and why? What do you wear when showing your steer or heifer and why?


    How can you be injured when working with your show steer or heifer? How do you keep yourself and people helping you safe while working with your show steer or heifer? How do you determine how much you can safely carry without hurting your back. Hint: 15 % of your body weight is the most you should lift. ________ X 0.15 = ______________ Example: 100 lbs. X 0.15 = 15 pounds


    Why is personal protection important? What other activities do you participate in that require you to protect yourself and how do you protect yourself?


    How can you use what you’ve learned in this lesson to help you in other activities?


    Youth and trainers for beef cattle show