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Farm safely this spring

Reminding ourselves how we can stay safe on farm this spring is a worthwhile exercise. After tractors and machinery, accidents involving livestock are the next most common cause of fatalities on Irish farms.

The calving period is just around the corner and the risk of serious injury can be high. Reports from the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) state that attacks by recently calved cows are a common cause of serious injury and fatalities on farms. In the period 2008 – 2017 approximately 13% of all fatal farm accidents were livestock related, with half of those involving cows and heifers. The HSA have outlined the common risks encountered to remind farmers about livestock safety. While these are all familiar practices, it is worth reminding ourselves how we can stay safe on our farms this spring and ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Is an adequate physical barrier established between the farmer and freshly calved cow when treating or handling calves?
  • Is there an escape plan for animal birthing activity?
  • Are appropriate animal handling facilities in place, for example, crush, head scoop and calving gate?
  • Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?

With much of the calving happening during short days, or at night, farmers are encouraged to have plenty of well positioned lights around the farmyard as this will greatly improve visibility and safety. Good handling facilities and holding areas where cows can be monitored remotely are important. Further advice from the HSA includes; never turning your back on the cow when handling the newborn calf, in so far as possible keep a gate or barrier between you and the cow when removing the calf and the use of calving units with calving gates will ensure safety and reduce stress on farmers and the animal.

Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HSA says that planning work with safety in mind is particularly important at this busy time on farms, “During what is now a more concentrated calving period, fatigue and increased stress levels are almost inevitable. However, some early planning can make a significant difference. This should include checking over everything that is needed to manage calving while continuing to feed stock. Review the overall tidiness of the yard, the free and safe movement of machinery, the condition of tractors, loaders, diet feeders, calving jacks and availability and placement of fresh bedding.

For more information on farm safety practices go to www.hsa.ie/eng/Your_Industry/Agriculture_Forestry

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