Kids and livestock
I grew up on an acreage with cattle and horses. It was always exciting when a new four-legged friend showed up, but my parents were quick to make sure I had a good understanding of my limits around animals that were bigger than me.
Tracy Schlater is the marketing director for Farm Safety for Just Kids. She says when you bring livestock to the farm, most kids are going to be very curious. They’ll want to see and possibly touch the animals. Take it slow. Let the child set the tone for introductions, and then talk.
"Every child is different, every kid will approach an animal differently. So really feel out the child in that situation and tailor your message to the kids," says Schlater. "Some kids are naturally very apprehensive, so you may actually need to encourage them a little bit. Other kids may have no fear whatsoever. So, it’s really all about letting the child lead and giving instruction based on how they handle things."
Make sure the kids understand that animals are not like people. They have instincts such as “fight or flight”, and if the kids aren’t careful, they might find themselves in a difficult situation. Encourage them to recognize warning signs, and plan an “escape zone” so they can get away if something goes wrong while they’re with the animal.
Schlater says teaching the right way to approach livestock, particularly larger animals such as cows and horses, will minimize surprises.
"They have excellent peripheral vision, but they lack vision directly front of them and directly behind them. So, it’s important when you’re approaching large animals to teach your kids to come at them from the side so that they can see them coming," says Schlater. "Maybe even touch them if the animal is comfortable with that just to let them know that you’re there."
Learn more about safety with kids and livestock:
Understanding animal behavior and proper facilities for safe handling
Make sure kids understand these animal safety rules
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