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

Swine Safety

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


Swine project members will:

  • Describe how you can be injured while working with show pigs.
  • Recognize how work habits affect your personal safety and the show pigs you work with.
  • Describe appropriate personal protection equipment and clothing choices for working with show pigs 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 swine project activities.

Swine Safety Lesson 1: Take Good Care of Yourself

Livestock, including swine, are involved in many youth injuries every year. This lesson is designed to teach best practices for personal safety when working with pigs raised or purchased for the purpose of showing at livestock exhibitions. It should be used with other Swine Project materials.

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

  • Slips / Falls
  • Cuts, scrapes, and bruises from being knocked down, stepped on, or bitten
  • Muscle and/or back strain from daily chores, grooming, and bending over while showing

Less common injuries from working with and/or showing pigs:

  • Breathing problems from inhaling dust, animal dander, or grooming products
  • Serious injury such as puncture wounds

It’s important to use personal protection equipment and develop safe working habits when working with your show pigs. Let’s start with your first line of personal protection - clothing. While you have lots of options for what to wear, these lessons focus on best choices. Practice personal safety by using personal protection equipment and developing safe working habits, including:

  • Closed-toe shoes or boots – sturdy, leather with non-slip soles for routine work and the show ring; and waterproof rubber work boots for the wash rack or other wet areas.
  • Gloves – latex or rubber gloves protect your hands and forearms while washing, grooming, or doctoring; leather gloves protect your hands when feeding and doing other work with your show pig.
  • Long sleeves and long pants offer the most effective protection from exposure to scrapes, and scratches as well as dirt and dander from your show pig, its pen, or the surface of the show ring. However, when showing and working with your pig during the hottest days of summer it may be beneficial to wear short sleeves – just remember to wash your hands and forearms often with soap and water and use sunscreen when you are working with your show pig outdoors.
  • 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, and when working in an enclosed area where noises are loud – especially enclosed areas where pigs are squealing.
  • Frequent hand washing with soap protects you whenever you work with your show pig. Animals can spread bacteria to humans. Contact with the pig’s skin, dander, and feces – especially from washing and grooming tasks – creates an opportunity for bacteria to pass from your show pig to you. Learn first aid and keep a first aid kit in your show box and in the barn or building where you keep your show pig.
  • Do I Really Need Protection? – How You Can Be Hurt Working with Show Pigs

    You can slip, trip, or fall in the pen, over equipment or feed bags left laying around, on a slick walkway, or on an uneven surface (such as in sand in the show ring or in the show pig’s pen at home). You can be bitten or your pig can knock you down. Your fingers get pinched in a gate latch; you can get poked by a wire, or the blades on the clippers. 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 washing or clipping.

    Try This!

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

    1. Stand close to object to be lifted (a feed bag for example);
    2. Spread your feet wide enough to straddle the object;
    3. Squat, bending at your knees and hips;
    4. Keep your head up and your back straight;
    5. Hold in your stomach muscles;
    6. Lift the object using your leg muscles;
    7. Keep the load close to your body with a firm grip;
    8. 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); and repetitive handwork (as when you are washing and clipping).

    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 utility cart.

    Discussion Questions

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


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


    How can you be injured when working with your show pig?
    How do you keep yourself and people helping you safe while working with your show pig?
    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?

    GO ON TO SWINE SAFETY LESSON 2: Behavior Basics: Getting to Know Your Show Pig

Youth and trainers for swine show