Cattle industry swings behind safety gate

Cattle yards play a huge part in our local farming industry. In fact, with over 28 million head of cattle grazing on our big brown land, there are more cows in Australia than people.

Not only are our cows big in numbers, they are also big in size. Weighing in at up to 450kg, the risk of our bovine friends causing serious injury, and even death, is very real – to the point where cattle handling is one of the most hazardous jobs in the livestock industry.

That’s why this National Farm Safety Week, we’re revisiting a cattle gate which was purpose built to keep our farmers safe.

Designed by NSW farmer Edward Evans, SaferGate swings away from the operator when an animal charges it. This time two years ago we put the gate through rigorous testing. How did we do this? We thought we’d use our very own ‘crash test cow’. See how it went down:

Since our bovine testing rook place in 2012, SaferGate has hit the market and been installed in over 100 cattle fences around the country.

Australian Agricultural Co’s chief operating officer Troy Setter, said his company had installed some SaferGate units last year, which had already prevented potential injury to one of his livestock staff when a beast struck the gate she was attempting to close.

“If it was a normal gate, she would have been hit and possibly seriously injured, however the SaferGate simply folded away,” Mr Setter said. “Stopping just one injury makes the investment worthwhile,” he said.

Read more about the development of SaferGate or get involved in National Farm Safety Week.


Are all stem cells safe? Absolutely not!

Stem cells have been hailed as the holy grail for treating many diseases and illnesses, including blindness, spine injury and stroke. Recently it was even reported that scientists had printed human embryonic stem cells using a 3D printer.

While it is easy to get carried away with the hype and the promise, it’s also important to not lose sight of the most important thing – safety.

Today our scientists have published a new paper all about stem cell safety which highlights how not all stem cells are safe. They have also developed the first safety test specifically for human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which are now the most commonly used pluripotent stem cell type for research.

Our scientists are hoping the study and the new test method will help to raise the awareness and importance of stem cell safety and lead to improvements in quality control globally.


Things we like

Vermin celebration

How do drugs make us ‘high’? The clever folk at the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah created this animated game to help explain how drugs like marijuana and cocaine affect our brains.

Mouse Party animation

Be safe, go viral

Just the word safety makes most people yawn. How to make it something people care about? A catchy tune and adorable animation always helps. We tip our safety goggles to Metro Trains.

Personal action figure for Christmas?

A 3D printing photobooth in Tokyo now lets you get that gift you’ve always wanted- a little you.

3D action figure

Trippy soap bubbles

Soap bubbles that look like science fiction. Macro photography at its coolest.

Soap bubbles

Eclipse wonder

I think even non-geeks agree there is something very humbling and awe-inspiring about a solar eclipse. If you haven’t seen it already, we bring you totality.


Vaccine arrives to boost the frontline fight against Hendra virus

Australian horse owners and the equine industry receive an important boost in their fight against the deadly Hendra virus today, with the introduction of Equivac® HeV vaccine.

The vaccine, available under permit from registered veterinarians, is for use only in horses and aims to protect the Australian equine population against this killer disease. With a high mortality rate, Hendra virus has claimed the lives of more than 60 horses, including nine deaths in 2012 alone.

Info graphic showing details of the transmission and clinical signs of the Hendra Virus

This infographic explains the transmission and clinical signs of the Hendra virus

The threat of Hendra virus extends well beyond horses with four out of the seven people infected with the virus dying as a result of the infection. With no known cure, the Equivac HeV vaccine is set to become the most effective defence against this disease.

‘The vaccine is a major win for people working in veterinary practice, who are at great risk of Hendra infection,’ Dr Ben Gardiner, President, Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) said. ‘This vaccine significantly decreases the risk to horse owners, handlers and veterinarians.’

Vet administering the Equivac HcV vaccine

The Equivac HeV vaccine administered to the first horse by Dr Nathan Anthony in Brisbane, Qld.

The Equivac HeV vaccine was developed in collaboration with four international organisations. In Australia, CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) worked in close partnership with Pfizer Animal Health. Additionally, US organisations, the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences (USU) and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HJF) have also contributed to the development of this important vaccine.

Pfizer Animal Health was involved from early on in the process, contributing to formulation, industrialisation, production and distribution of the vaccine.

“Our involvement in the collaboration to develop Equivac HeV speaks to our determination to support the veterinary community and equine industry with effective vaccines to aid in the control of potentially life-threatening diseases such as the Hendra virus,” said Mike van Blommestein, Division Director, Pfizer Animal Health Australia.

Additionally, it has also managed the formal regulatory approval process including those safety and efficacy trials required by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for the granting of permit approval, as well as fulfilling the requirements of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.

Image of person in high containment laboratory suit

A CSIRO Scientist working in the high-containment area of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory

CSIRO has maintained a significant program of Hendra virus research since it was first identified and has contributed critical technical knowhow and advice on the virus to the partnership. CSIRO also provided the safe handling of Hendra virus and testing of the Equivac HeV at its high containment facility in Geelong, Victoria – the only laboratory in the world capable of such high-risk work.

Leading the specialist team from CSIRO, Dr Deborah Middleton,a veterinary pathologist, has a deep understanding of the need for an equine vaccine to aid in the prevention of the spread of Hendra virus.

Photo of Dr Deborah Middleton

CSIRO’s Dr Deborah Middleton

‘As a veterinarian, I have seen firsthand how Hendra virus has created difficult working conditions for my colleagues and any Australian who works with horses,’ Dr Middleton said.

‘A horse vaccine is crucial to breaking the cycle of Hendra virus transmission from flying foxes to horses and then to people, as it can prevent both the horse developing the disease and passing it on.

‘For the first time, we have a Hendra virus specific tool that provides vets with a greater level of safety when they come into contact with sick horses.’

US partners, HJF and USU, also played an important role in the initial stages of the development of Equivac HeV vaccine. A research team at USU, led by Dr Christopher Broder, worked for more than a decade to find preventive treatments for both Hendra and Nipah virus infections.

Contributing to this work, HJF provided intellectual property advice and guidance to Dr Broder’s team to ensure the Hendra virus vaccine moved from the military to the civilian world.

Pfizer Animal Health is now working to supply Equivac HeV vaccine to those areas with the greatest need across Australia.

Infographic of explaining the history of the Hendra virus

The history of Hendra explained

They will also oversee the training and accreditation of veterinarians working with the vaccine as well as the supply and maintenance of a national vaccine register for horses, requiring veterinarians to record details of a horse’s location and vaccination status.

While the introduction of a vaccine represents a significant step in countering the Hendra virus, it is still important that veterinarians and those who work with horses take precautions to safeguard against infection.

‘Although Equivac HeV will provide enormous reassurance for Australians in contact with horses, owners should still take caution around places flying foxes congregate. Anyone handling a sick horse should continue to take precautions,’ Dr Gardiner added. ‘Simple measures such as using personal protective equipment and clothing, quarantining sick horses from other animals and people and following good hygiene practices as a matter of routine, can greatly reduce the risk of the disease.’

CSIRO has maintained a significant program of research on the deadly Hendra virus, since the virus was first identified in 1994.  This work is part of CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship’s commitment to protecting the health of our animals and people from biosecurity disease threats.

The Hendra virus horse vaccine project has received significant funding from State and Federal governments over the years. Most recently, in 2011, the Intergovernmental Hendra Virus Taskforce was formed and additional funding was provided through the National Hendra Virus Research Program to ensure critical timelines for vaccine development were maintained.

Further information

For further information, pre-recorded video footage or an interview, please contact:

Emma Wilkins, CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship

0409 031 658

Katherine Barbeler, Weber Shandwick:

0439 941 632

For more information about the Equivac HeV vaccine, visit health4horses

Read more news@CSIRO posts about the Hendra Virus


What the crash test cow saw

It’s not often our videos go viral but this week our Crash Test Cow clip was watched by over 3,000 people and posted on news sites around the world.

Our 60kg bovine, which was designed to test a new cattle gate called SaferGate, was even deemed more popular than Kylie by the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Forget Kylie, forget Cate, Australia’s newest international superstar is far more impressive – it’s a Crash Test Cow’.

It seems our cow is becoming quite the celebrity so we thought we’d share some behind the scenes footage taken from the perspective of our cow.


‘Crash test cow’ helps move farmers out of the firing line

A new type of cattle gate aimed at preventing farmer death and injury has completed rigorous testing and development by the CSIRO. SaferGate, designed by farmer and inventor Edward Evans, has been put to the test by a CSIRO-developed ‘crash test cow’.

MEDIA: VNR footage available HERE

Hundreds of farmers and cattle handlers are injured in Australia operating cattle gates. According to latest statistics, 211 farmers were ‘caught, crushed, jammed, or pinched in or between objects’ between 2000 and 2005. Gate incidents also account for 0.5 per cent of deaths among agricultural workers in Australia.

CSIRO’s 60kg test cow, which boasts authentic horns and hide, is designed to simulate the force of a bull or cow charging a cattle gate, used on farms, feedlots, in trucks and abattoirs across Australia.

CSIRO concluded its research last week with a series of simulated crash tests designed to evaluate how SaferGate would perform when charged or kicked by an animal. The tests were conducted by hoisting the cow to a height of five meters before launching it at the gate.

SaferGate is designed by Edward Evans, who had his own leg broken when operating a cattle gate on his farm. Unlike a traditional cattle gate, it swings away from the farmer or operator when a cow charges it, preventing injury or death. This is achieved by a pivot mechanism which splits the gate into two pieces when hit, allowing the part of the gate in front of the operator to fold back on itself and away from them.

In 2011 Mr Evans won the ABC’s New Inventors grand final and was awarded testing and evaluation of the SaferGate by CSIRO. CSIRO scientists have improved the original design by adding a magnet on the SaferGate hinge (the magnetic latch), which allows the gate to remain in a steady position – like a traditional gate – until hit. They have also added a handle on top of the gate that makes it easier for workers on horseback to open the gate.

CSIRO’s improvements have focused on simplifying the gates operation, optimising safety, and ensuring that all parts and mechanisms on the gate can be easily maintained when exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Research Project Leader Peter Westgate, who led the project, said: “We have never been asked to test the performance of a cattle gate before. Our bread and butter is industrial fire, materials and building testing, but knowing how big an issue safety is for farmers and operators made this project as rewarding as it was challenging.

“What our tests have shown us is that the harder and faster the gate is hit, the better it performs, and even though the tests use a 60kg ‘cow’ compared to a real-life 1000kg cow, the result is the same.”

SaferGate inventor and company director Edward Evans said: “With the help of CSIRO, it is great to finally see my vision for SaferGate coming to life. The improvements we have made to the original gate now mean it is even safer and easier operate on foot or on horseback. I hope to see it helping to improve the safety of Australia’s farmers and cattle gate operators very soon.”

SaferGate General Manager Mike Agnew said: “We are very pleased with the work that CSIRO has done and we are now focused on taking their designs forward and getting SaferGate manufactured and on the market. We hope to be selling SaferGate in Australia within the next six months.”

The company is planning to launch the SaferGate initially in Australia and the United States.

Update: If, like us, you were curious to know more about the cow’s role in all of this, then check out this video on what the crash test cow saw.


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