7 Questions Farmers Need To Ask Themselves Ahead Of Calving Season

A two-week-long farm safety inspection campaign focusing on livestock handling is currently underway.

The campaign which is run by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), ahead of peak calving season is focusing on the safe management of livestock ahead of peak calving season when the risk of injury to farmers increases significantly.

It comes as 190 people have lost their lives over the last 10 years in farming-related work activity in Ireland. Of these fatalities, 34 involved livestock.

190 people have lost their lives over the last 10 years in farming-related work activity in Ireland – of these fatalities, 34 involved livestock

Carrying out risk assessments on the work to be done and planning ahead is essential when handling livestock, according to the HSA, and well-designed and maintained handling facilities are key factors for the safe handling of all livestock and prevention of injury to handlers.

According to the HSA, farmers should ask themselves a few simple questions before getting stuck into work on the farm this calving season.

  • Are handling facilities including calving boxes adequate for your herd size?
  • Is there adequate lighting in the yard and farm buildings?
  • Do you need help?
  • Are the extra resources trained and experienced?
  • Is there a plan in place to minimise the risk of attack?
  • Is an adequate physical barrier established between the farmer (worker) and the freshly calved cow when tagging, treating and handling calves?
  • Are facilities and procedures adequate for separating, loading and unloading animals?

Farmers are being urged to plan ahead and put safety measures in place “as cows, and in particular heifers, can be unpredictable before, during or after calving and may become aggressive,” said Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the HSA.

Good holding areas and calving facilities where cows can be monitored remotely are important and can help reduce farmer fatigue, he said.

“Well-prepared calving units with clean bedding, calving gates, planned escape routes and the necessary equipment will ensure safety and reduce stress.

“With much of calving happening during short and dark evenings, or at night, farmers are encouraged to have plenty of well-positioned lights in calving units and around the farmyard as this will greatly improve visibility and safety”.

Farmers commonly experience increased stress and fatigue during calving season, said Pat, and working with livestock is a key injury trigger so farmers must prioritise their physical safety.

“Clean and organised yards will help eliminate injury from slips, trips and falls and also allows all the necessary items to be easily found and help prevent injury or even death.”

(Source – Irish Independent – Indo farming – Tamara Fitzpatrick – 25/01/2023)

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