Think safe when working with bulls

Over short distances a bull can run at speeds of up to 40 mph
Over short distances a bull can run at speeds of up to 40 mph

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland is reminding farmers to Stop and Think SAFE when working with bulls and livestock.

Animals are one of the top four dangers on local farms and on average one farmer a year is killed by a bull while others are injured, often seriously. Many who survive an attack express astonishment at the speed and agility of the bull.

Managing bulls

Following some simple steps can help reduce risks. From an early age the bull should learn to associate people with feeding, grooming or exercise.

All bulls should be ringed at 10 months old and all dairy bulls should be kept in a purpose-built bullpen. Never enter the pen when the bull is loose. Safety signs should also be erected warning of the presence of a bull at the entrance to any building where a bull is kept.

Handling bulls and other livestock always involves risks, from crushing to kicking and butting. Be particularly careful when animals are returned to the field after they’ve been housed indoors for long periods.

The following checklist should help you and others stay SAFE.


l watch for warning signs of animal aggression, especially in bulls and newly calved cows and heifers

l work out an escape route or refuge in advance of handling livestock

l be careful around cows and heifers with new-born calves

l remember, that cows that are on heat are unpredictable

l try to keep cattle calm when working with them

l remind farmers that aggressive and difficult cattle should be culled as soon as possible

l protect yourself against disease with proper personal hygiene

l Make sure handlers are competent


l turn your back on a bull or trust a bull

l put yourself or a colleague at risk with cattle

l stress or arouse cattle unnecessarily

l turn your back on a cow following calving

l beat or shout at cattle unnecessarily – they remember bad experiences

l Remember, a playful bull can kill you just as easily as an angry one.

‘Stop and Think’ Checklist

For more information about safe handling of livestock, the ongoing ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ campaign or general advice on farm safety please, contact the HSENI helpline on 0800 0320 121 or visit:

You can also check out HSENI’s YouTube video where Alexander Martin recalls how he was seriously injured when attacked by a bull on his County Down farm.