As the weather warms up and families begin to visit agritourism destinations, it is important to consider safety. Children often want to experience the joys of petting and being around farm animals. However, children are the ones most likely to be injured in an animal exhibit with the arms and legs being the most frequent site of injury. Knowledge of an animal’s behavior is a crucial step towards being safe.
Just like humans, animals have certain behavior characteristics that need to be understood. One of the main things to consider when approaching an animal is its sense of sight. Beef, swine and dairy cattle are generally color blind and have poor depth perception; while sheep are color blind and have good depth perception. As a result, these animals are sensitive to shadows and changes from light to dark areas. Most livestock have a panoramic field of vision, which means they can see everything around except what is directly behind them. This area is considered the animal’s blind spot. Therefore, it is best to approach an animal from the front or side and not the rear. Approaching from the rear may startle the animal and cause it to kick. In addition, fast movement and loud noises should be kept to a minimum while engaging an animal. Livestock can become spooked and in their attempt to flee from the noise or movement, may run into objects or people.
Another issue of concern is zoonotic diseases, such as Leptospirosis, Rabies, Brucellosis, Salmonellosis, Ringworm and E. coli. A zoonotic disease is an illness that can be transmitted between humans and animals. To reduce exposure, use basic hygiene and sanitation practices such as proper hand washing. Prior to entering an animal exhibit identify where hand washing stations are located. Always wash your hands after petting animals or touching animal enclosures. Wash your hands after exiting the animal area even if you did not touch an animal. Hand sanitizing gel and wipes also work if they contain 60% to 95% ethanol or isopropanol alcohol.
Animal exhibits can be fun and educational. But it is important to be knowledgeable about animal perception and behavior, as well as safe handling practices, so that the entire family can enjoy them safely.
Please be sure to attend the University of Delaware’s AG Day on Saturday, April 26 from 10:00am to 4:00pm at UD Townsend Hall. This is a community event that brings agriculture and natural resources to life for all that attend. There will be a livestock display featuring UD farm animals to enjoy. So remember your livestock safety recommendations and have fun!