Farm advice: Reducing sprains and strains


Aches and pains can be an everyday part of life, but a few simple tips can help prevent sprains and strains, particularly during calving season

Technology and innovative solutions are an increasingly important part of farming, helping to solve some of our challenges, including improving working conditions, increasing productivity, and reducing on-farm injury. That’s why it’s been great to be involved in the Reducing Sprains and Strains project. This was a project funded by ACC’s Workplace Injury Prevention Grants programme, with co-investment from DairyNZ.

Farmers generally prioritise health and safety, but sprain and strain injuries do happen and often during the busiest times. Our research showed that sprains and strains make up around 40% of all dairy farm injuries, particularly between August and October during spring calving.

These findings are why I saw this project as having the chance to make a real difference, supporting the health and wellbeing of farm teams.


It’s rewarding to be at the other end of the project now and look back at what we have achieved. Our role at DairyNZ was focused on concept development. We then built partnerships with engaged companies to help develop and produce some of the successful solutions, including Kea Trailers who are now selling the popular Easy-Entry Calf Trailer Gate. This trailer gate has a spring-loaded self-closing saloon door, allowing easy calf loading without having to slide or open gates, and it can be retrofitted to existing trailers. During the prototype phase, Kea Trailers and many farmers helped trial and design this, and some farmers have already purchased one after seeing them in the Fieldays® Innovation Hub last year.

Other innovative products looking to go to market are:

  • Easy-Access Calf Pen Gate (by Gallagher), which can be retrofitted between calf pens to allow hands-free access while carrying buckets or moving calves.
  • Bucket Trolley (by Wheelco), which has a pivoting design to enable easy lifting and carrying of one to two colostrum buckets across uneven ground.
  • Cups on Mat (by The Wholesale Matting Company), which is a cushioned mat to elevate shorter people working at cups-on into a better ergonomic position.

These were all trialled with farmers to check for ease of use and ensure they worked for current farming practices.
I believe these products can genuinely help reduce injury while making the job easier for farmers.

Kea Trailer’s Easy-Entry Calf Trailer Gate

I’ve appreciated the opportunity to work alongside farmers and other experts every step of the way, including co-designing solutions that will reduce injury risk and make the job easier.

Working in partnership with QCONZ and Pāmu was also valuable, further bringing a farmer-centred approach to
the project.

New Zealand has many different farm types so the solutions aren’t a one-size-fits-all, however, the project’s co-design approach has provided some valuable options for farmers looking to make the job easier while improving farm safety.

One thing that was obvious during our work was how many great ideas are already out there on farms nationwide.
I encourage you to seek ideas from other farmers and your team on howto reduce the risk of sprains and strains on your farm.

Easy-Access Calf Pen Gate from Gallagher

Farmers shared these popular tips to avoid injuries:

  • Using a specialised trailer to transport calves
  • Piping milk into calf feeders instead of lifting buckets
  • Having two staff pick up heavier calves together
  • Tucking hoses away after use in the milking shed
  • Investing in footwear with good grip and ankle support.

You can find out more about the project at dairynz.co.nz/sprains-strains.  

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