Farm advice: Helping reduce injuries over calving

By: By Callum Eastwood, DairyNZ senior scientist

With calving upon us again, it's important to keep staff safe and well by reducing injuries during calving

Dr Callum Eastwood

It’s been great to be able to get out and about more this year, connecting in person again with farmers at events.

We’ve been talking about a range of topics, but there has been a focus on keeping our staff safe and well by reducing injuries over calving.

Research has shown that sprains and strains make up around 40% of all dairy farm injuries, particularly between August and October during spring calving.

These mainly occur when farmers are:

  • Collecting calves from the paddock
  • Lifting/feeding calves or buckets of milk
  • Cupping cows, particularly on rotaries
  • Slipping or tripping on uneven ground or pipes/hoses

With this focus on on-farm safety, DairyNZ has partnered with ACC through the ACC Workplace Injury Prevention Grants. Through this, we’re designing and developing creative solutions with farmers that support a sector-wide reduction in sprains and strains, particularly over calving.

We know this time of year is busy enough without additional injury to yourself or someone on your team.

DairyNZ is passionate about ensuring solutions, which not only sound good on paper but also help and are practical to implement in real life. That’s why we co-design innovative farm safety solutions with farmers to understand how to improve safety during day-to-day calving activities.

DairyNZ calf trailer concept 2023.jpg

Farmers are part of the initial designs, and then they test all concepts on-farm to further refine the solutions and determine if they are practical and help solve the problems identified.

It’s been exciting sharing these prototypes with farmers at recent events. This included showcasing them at the Innovation Hub at New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays®, which provided a great opportunity for farmers to come and see the concepts in person.
One entry was our easy-entry calf trailer, with a spring-loaded and self-closing saloon door.

This enables easier, faster, and safer calf loading to reduce injuries associated with collecting calves. Other concepts include a calf-rearing area pedestrian gate, flexible breast rail, new milking cluster design, cups on mat design, and bucket lifting trolley. While we continue working on trialling and improving our concepts, I still encourage you to focus on the physical and mental wellbeing of yourselves and your team over calving.

Here are a few top tips from farmers that can help reduce injury during calving season:

  • have two staff pick up heavier calves together if needed use a specialised trailer to transport calves
  • pipe milk into calf feeders instead of lifting buckets
  • tuck hoses away after use in the
  • milking shed
  • invest in the right footwear — look for great grip and ankle support

You can find more information and videos on the project and concepts online at

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