How to Keep Kids Safe Around Livestock

Are Pigs Dangerous?

This is a question I get.  Is it dangerous to keep pigs?  Is it dangerous to keep pigs if you have small children?

I’ve been raising pigs for years.  I’ve also had children for years.  When we got our first pigs our children were pretty young.

BONUS STORY:  

My youngest was a little guy and he was pretty excited when he was told he could name one of our first 2 piglets.  The name he selected?  “Zorro”  Yes, we owned a pig named, Zorro.  Actually we have owned several pigs named, “Zorro.”  Our pigs are food, ya’ know….  and we don’t want to get too attached to them.  Some folks don’t name the food.

This is stupid and doesn’t work on our farm because eventually something is going to happen to one of your pigs & when you call for help (Thank you, DH) you need a name to identify who the problem is.  I suppose numbers would do, but names are easier.

So, yes, we name our food.  Our solution to the “names will make you bond with them” is simple – we name our pigs the same names every year.

YUP.

What are the pig names:  Porker, Zorro and Snacks.

We have had several seasons and rounds of piggies, but they always get the same names:  Porker, Zorro and Snacks.

Porker is the biggest.

Zorro is the runt.

Snacks is the other one.

Don’t ask me about the year I had 17 pigs – that was a disaster and there were only 3 pigs who could be readily identified (Porker, Zorro & Snacks)  all the others were just “my stupid pigs.”

No, he is not getting ready to bite, fully intact boars foam at the mouth… for more on foam go here.

I’ve heard some horrifying stories about pigs turning evil, harming people and even eating their owners.

I don’t know if these are true, but they are scary enough to make me pretty cautious around animals who weigh significantly more than I do.

The truth is that any animal can be dangerous.  Cows, goats, sheep, pigs, roosters, tom turkeys and even rabbits can give a hearty scratching if they feel so inclined. When you raise animals, there are certainly many opportunities for someone to get hurt.

We have 4 children who are pretty involved in the farm work around our place.  I am careful and try to take precautions so that none of my children are put in situations where they could get hurt.  You can’t protect them from everything, but you can be smart.

In order to keep everyone safe, we have rules.

How to Keep Children Safe Around Large Animals

# 1 Way to Keep Children Safe Around Livestock – Obedient Children

I think, first and foremost, it is important that the children who are living around large animals are taught to obey authority.  Whether it’s mom & dad or the neighbor or the farmer down the road – kids need to respect and heed instructions.  Especially around large animals, it can be very important that children (or anyone) pay attention, listen and do as they are told.

Obey Immediately:  When you are in the middle of giving a 1,300 pound steer its injections you don’t want to have to explain “Why?” to a child who is playing in a pile of dirt.  You do not want them to tell you they’ll do it in a second.  You do not want to wait on them (meanwhile, you are attempting to hold a 1,300 pound animal still) while they finish making their dirt road.  You need them to hand you the bottle of blackleg… NOW.  You don’t want to wait and often can’t…. you need them to do exactly what you told them to do…. right then.

Obey Without Question:  When a small child is about to grab a hold of a 2,000 watt electric fence……  you don’t want them to challenge your instructions or ask you why they can’t touch the fence.  Not to mention, you may not have time for these explanations before the child gets his shoulders knocked out of their sockets.  You just need him stop…. listen to you….  and NOT TOUCH THE FENCE….. or he’ll be sorry.

Side note – My children have all had enough experiences with electric fences that they now have TREMENDOUS RESPECT for any fence they meet.  When we go to other farms, a common question is, “Is this fence hot?”

Electric fences have an unforgettable teaching method.  Once you get zapped good, you aren’t too excited about a re-run.

Obey Without Complaint:  Again, when we are in the process of working with large animals (doing things like: banding calves, giving immunizations or milking) I don’t want to deal with a child who is complaining, whining or having a tantrum because “He” wanted to hold the “fill in the blank.

Crying, screaming, tantrums and general defiance do not really have a place when you are working with large animals.  If I can’t trust the child to do as he/she is told (without questioning, arguing, complaining or crying) I just have them stay in the house.

Even if we are not “working” with animals, obedience is still crucial on the farm or small homestead.

I must be able to trust my children to play where they are allowed to play and not go where they aren’t allowed.  If you are not sure whether your children (or the children visiting your farm) are going to do what they are told or stay out of places that are off limits – just keep an eye on them (that’s what I do).

# 2 – Way to Keep Children Safe Around Livestock – Small children and Large Animals are a bad idea.

We never have allowed our small children work with the large animals.  They don’t feed, water, muck or go into the fields with large animals (unless I am with them or have given them permission and supervision).

When our children are old enough and I can see that the animals respect them – then I begin to let them work with the larger animals (supervised, of course).

My youngest daughter is 12 years old and weighs 80 pounds.  She is a tiny thing and most folks would be terrified to put her in a confined space with a 800 pound cow (that has horns).  BUT, I’m here to tell y’all, that girl doesn’t put up with any bull from the cows.  It’s hilarious.  That little girl can move our horned, Jersey cow, Trinka, anywhere she wants.  It always makes me laugh to see her escorting a giant bovine around like a puppy.

I trust her.  She knows how to work with a cow.  She knows how to move cows.  She knows how to get out of the way if the cow starts to act up.

#3 – Way to Keep Children Safe Around Livestock – Wear the right Gear

No open toed shoes around big animals – ever.  Unless you want a broken foot.

It’s not a matter of “if” you will get stepped on….. it’s just a matter of “when.”  If a giant animal steps on your foot it is usually because they wanted to come get a scratch from you (especially the 300 pound pigs or a 800 pound cow).  At our place it is never out of spite – they just want to be close to you (because you love them) and they truly have no idea they are standing on your foot.  Really, they don’t have a clue.  The worst part is trying to get them off your foot once they plop down on it.  Ugh.

So, close-toed shoes are a must – and if you work with cows – steel-toed boots are the best.  A cow could stand on your foot until the cows come home and you won’t feel a thing.

#4 – Way to Keep Children Safe Around Livestock – Feed them Right

An animal with adequate living quarters & diet should be content to stay in their given habitat.  Animals need plenty of space, shelter, windbreak, food and water.  If their needs are being met and the fencing is secure you should have animals happily dwelling in their environment.  If they don’t have something or don’t have enough of something (like food) this is when they begin to think about escape.

When it comes to pigs, you really have to be careful about what you feed them.  No, you can’t feed them table scraps.  I know there are people all over the world doing it, but I will never feed my pigs leftovers from my table….

Why?

2 reasons actually:

ONE:  Avocados are poisonous to pigs.

TWO:  They can’t eat any blood.  

I have been told by many folks much wiser than I am that you should NEVER feed a pig anything that contains blood.  This includes:  meat, bones, stocks, soups or anything else that has/had any meat/ blood in it.  Once a pig gets a taste of blood (meat) it changes them.  It will make them aggressive and create a desire to eat more blood (meat).  I’m told this is one of the reasons people get hurt around their pigs.

My pigs are vegetarians (who eat milk products).

#5 – Way to Keep Children Safe Around Livestock – Be Smart

Another precaution I take with the pigs is that I only keep them from birth to 300 pounds.   I don’t want to keep pigs and breed them (at least not right now).  Keeping pigs for breeding stock means you have some enormous pigs at your place.  I raise feeder pigs over the summer.  I am done in 4 months & when they leave they are as big enough to scare the dickens out of me.  My pigs usually weigh-in around 300 pounds at the end of their life.

Sows and Boars kept for breeding purposes can easily weigh over 500 pounds and can get up to 1000 pounds.  This is huge.  Especially with 4 children.  I suppose, with the right fencing and rules in place I could keep a giant boar around.  I would probably handle it like I do the Bull.  The kids wouldn’t be allowed in the pasture with the boar…. ever.  🙂

#6 – Way to Keep Children Safe Around Livestock – If an Animal Gets Aggressive – Eat ’em

This is why they are here, after all.  I can’t even tell you how many animals we’ve decided to eat (who weren’t destined for freezer camp) or how many animals we ate months before we planned to eat them because they were misbehaving.

Again, I have 4 children.  No animal is worth putting the welfare of my children in danger for.  We have eaten steers who were only 9 months old.  We have eaten roosters who were supposed to be fertilizing eggs.  We’ve eaten bunnies who tried to scratch the skin off anyone they came near them.

Be nice or be food.

Does it concern me to have my children living around livestock and large animals?  Not really.  I see it as a blessing in so many ways.  My children are benefiting so much from living this way:

  • They are learning responsibility.
  • They are learning obedience.
  • They are learning that boundaries are designed to protect them and keep them safe (rules).
  • They are learning how to care for livestock.
  • AND they are learning where food comes from.

Before you make the jump into large livestock ownership be sure you have safe dwelling areas for the animals and some rules in place for the kiddos so everyone stays safe & happy.

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XO,

Candi

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