Musculoskeletal disorders in Australian dairy farming

Document Type


Publication details

Innes, E & Walsh, C 2010, 'Musculoskeletal disorders in Australian dairy farming', Work : a journal of prevention, assessment, and rehabilitation, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 141-155.

Published version available from:

http://dx.doi.org/ 10.3233/WOR-2010-1016

Peer Reviewed



Objective: Dairy farming is a physically demanding occupation, however, little is known about the physical demands of dairy farming tasks, other than milking. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of musculoskeletal discomfort experienced by dairy farmers in relation to their work. Methods/Participants: A total of 433 dairy farmers from two Australian states (NSW and Victoria) were invited to participate in a mail-out survey (21% response rate, N = 90), which covered musculoskeletal discomfort, physical workload, task frequency and muscular recovery time.

Results: Farmers perceived that routine tasks performed repetitively caused more musculoskeletal discomfort than heavier tasks performed on a non-routine or seasonal basis. Males were more likely to perform heavier manual handling duties and tasks involving the use of machinery, whereas females performed more routine administration work. Both men and women were exposed to similar physical demands from the performance of a number of commonly reported and strenuous tasks. Reduced income, lack of staffing, deregulation, and insufficient recovery time were key factors identified by farmers to directly or indirectly limit the reduction of musculoskeletal discomfort at work.

Conclusion: Dairy farming is a diversified occupation that requires physical demands from both male and female workers. Further research is needed to investigate specific task demands and identify possible risk factors that may contribute to the future development of musculoskeletal disorders.

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