This brochure focuses on the many aspects of stable work that have to be performed. During several activities, awkward postures and movements are often necessary and may be difficult to perform without external assistance. These awkward postures and movements may lead to the development of musculoskeletal disorders: the back and upper limbs may be particularly
Moreover, unnecessary or avoidable stress whilst handling animals may also lower livestock productivity. Gentle quiet handling can reduce stress and should help to keep the animals calm.
Calm animals are easier to manage than excited animals.
This brochure stable work is divided into several separate activities:
– Long-handled tools
– Distribution of bedding material
– Cleaning of feed mangers and aisles
– Removal of manure
– Working techniques
This brochure is based on farm visits across Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and UK.
These visits resulted in several good practices being observed to prevent or reduce the incidence of MSDs when performing stable work.
The brochure doesn’t claim to cover all possible good practices to prevent against MSDs during livestock handling, but is the result farm visits and meetings with farmers. There is no affiliation to commercial organizations or products in presenting these good practices.
We would like to thank all farmers and agricultural workers that collaborated to this study and we hope that all other farmers might learn from their practices to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in the future!
31. Long-handled tools
Stable work involves a lot of manual operations. A first step to improve those operations is to invest in ergonomically well-designed tools.
There are many types of long-handled tool used in stables and livestock buildings for maintenance and cleaning tasks: scrapers, shovels, forks and brooms. Many of them are old-fashioned and are not necessarily suited for the work to be performed in modern designs of building and types of flooring. Also, the tools are not always adapted for the user, or adjustable, and therefore can increase the risk for musculoskeletal disorders in the upper limbs and the back, especially the lower back if the tools are used in a stooping posture.
Instead of manually distributing the bedding material, a small machine for bedding distribution can be used (left) or a machine where the distribution of bedding material is combined with cleaning/removal of small amounts of manure (right).
A cart is mounted on a front loader or tractor and so the bedding material is distributed without any heavy work load.
By using a straw spreader, manual handling becomes superfluous.
The machine takes the ballot and puts it in the spreader with telescopic arm.
No manual manipulation necessary.
Daily cleaning of the stalls is necessary for hygiene reasons. Typically the farmer makes use of a brush or a shovel to clean up the barn. When brushing the worker is often in a stooping posture.
Additionally, there may occur a rotation movement harmful to the spine. Moreover, the task becomes more difficult or arduous when the floor is irregular or rough.
Using a mechanical brush enables the adoption of a better posture to perform necessary cleaning. Moreover, uncomfortable muscular exertion can be avoided by using such mechanical aids. However, the user may be exposed to possibly harmful whole body or hand / arm vibration, so it would be advisable to take advantage of
appropriate protection, such as an air suspended seat or wearing soft leather gloves.
The moving barrier is powered by water jets; the water carries away the manure (provided that the ground / floor is suitably contoured and drained). It is important that the water flow through each of the jets is appropriately adjusted.
Also,the gate must be centrally hinged and run on small wheels at the far end.
This blade design is ideal for large volumes of manure, especially with straw bedding. In addition, the V formation gathers the manure cleanly and keeps pushing big loads forward, without spilling any manure back into the clean alley.
Automatic manure robot is suitable in loose housing dairy barns with slatted floors. The robot reduces the heavy manual work task to a minimum.
Cattle may have to be fed several times a day, depending on the management system. According to the size of the herd, this task can be more or less physically demanding. In the worst case the farmer would carry numerous pails or buckets (or similar size containers) in order to feed the cattle.
With a barrow it is possible to carry multiple containers on one run. Use of this tool also permits a better distribution of the total load.
However, beware that a heavily loaded barrow is likely to require large push and pull forces. An uneven floor or soft terrain would make the load even less easy to transport.
Instead of manually distributing the food, a partly automatic cart can be used. This cart is mounted in a rail in the ceiling in the dairy stanchion barn. The worker just has to use the joystick to distribute the food. It is important to consider a distribution
system that doesn’t increase dust levels.
Using an automatic feeding system makes the feeding relatively easy. Each animal is equipped with a transponder in its collar which makes it possible for the data system in
the silo to recognize the animal and to provide it a predetermined ration. This enables the correct amount of feed to be dispensed to each animal without human involvement (except for the computer programming).
Buckets filled with milk are carried from the milk room to the calf sheds twice every day. One farmer explained: “One bucket contains 16 litres of milk and is sufficient to feed four calves.
Having a herd of 60 calves and, assuming that each calf drinks about 360 litres of milk during its upbringing, it is necessary to carry about 21600 litres of milk per year – and this is a heavy work task”.
An attractive solution would be a milk cart. The cart contains 100-250 l of milk, has large rubber wheels and can be either manually drawn or electrically driven (with manual
guidance). Also, the hand cart / barrow for multiple containers can be used in this situation (see previously).
Stable work is physically demanding and associated with difficult working postures and movements, strenuous and static muscle loads. It is important to prepare for the physically demanding work and to help prevent musculoskeletal disorders by being physically fit and
Furthermore, learn how to practice working techniques so they become natural for you.
– Keep your body in good trim by regular physical exercise
– Use supports, tools, machinery when possible
– not use more muscle strength than the task requires
– Lifting a load – put your feet around the load, keep the load close to your body, bend your
knees AND keep your back straight
– Carrying a load – if possible divide the weight equally between your hands or carry the
– Turning with a load – move your feet instead of twisting your back
– Avoid lifting above shoulder height
Work near your body use both hands or alternate, and avoid extending your joints to more
This brochure is part of the project “Good practices in agriculture: social partners participation in the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders 2”, funded by the European Commission, DG Employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, call for proposal
VP/2012/0421. The Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained in this brochure.
Ownership of the results of the action, including industrial and intellectual property rights, and of the reports and other documents relation to it shall be vested in the beneficiary (IDEWE non-profit).
Goal of the project is to further implement the European social partners’ agreement of GEOPA-COPA and EFFAT by developing prevention policies and good practices to reduce
musculoskeletal disorders in agriculture and to disseminate the results. For the following tasks good practices are presented:
– Livestock handling
– Working with machinery
– Manual stable work
– Dairy small ruminants
– Milking cows
– Tractor driving
– Ground level manual crops
– Sorting and packaging