I have a couple standard rule here on the farm to make things a bit safer.
- Baby animals are not messed with unless there is another person present. Cows and pigs can be very protective of their young and you want someone near by that can help rescue you should a mother animal attack.
- No strangers in the pastures. Our animals know us, but can get defensive if a stranger approached.
- No one in pens or pastures during feeding time. Once the food is down I will sometimes go into the pasture to do a head count, but right before they get fed the pigs and cows can both be very pushy.
- If anything needs to be done to a piglet, sows must first be kicked out of the stall. No matter how calm I judge a sow, after a close call, we now always kick the sow out before rounding up piglets.
- Never approach a cow from the side or back. Unlike a horse, cows can kick both sideways and backwards.
- Overly aggressive animals are processed ASAP. Some protectiveness in a mother animal is fine, but overt aggression is not tolerated. I had a sow pin me in a corner once, and the minute her piglets where weaned she was sent to the processor. Even smaller pigs can be dangerous, because they are so strong, so we do our best to breed out what aggression we can.
- Do not encourage roughhousing or biting in baby animals. It might be cute when a piglet nibbles on your shoe when it's a piglet, it's not so cute when it's 200lbs. Same goes for goats. You don't want to have a full grown goat head butt you when you bend over, because you taught it to "play" with you like a goat when it was a kid -- its head is a lot thicker than yours, you will not win.
- ALWAYS BE AWARE!! If you are in the pasture or working with an animal, don't let yourself get distracted. Pay attention to your surroundings and the animals. Know how far you are from the fence, look at the animals' body language.