Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 23 July 2017

No such thing as a 'quiet' bull -- HSA

From left, Teagasc Grange's Dr Edward O'Riordan, ICBF livestock geneticist Dr Ross Evans, Dr Bernadette Early, Grange Bioscience Research, and IFA Livestock Committee chairman Michael Doran read up on some information before speaking at the national seminar on Strategies for Improving Safety with Cattle at Teagasc Grange
From left, Teagasc Grange's Dr Edward O'Riordan, ICBF livestock geneticist Dr Ross Evans, Dr Bernadette Early, Grange Bioscience Research, and IFA Livestock Committee chairman Michael Doran read up on some information before speaking at the national seminar on Strategies for Improving Safety with Cattle at Teagasc Grange
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The country's top farm safety inspector has slammed the notion of the quiet bull.

"There is no such thing as a quiet breed of bull," said Pat Griffin, senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

He was speaking at a Teagasc safety seminar at Grange, Co Meath, last week, where delegates were also told that purebred animals were more dangerous than crossbreds.

Livestock are responsible for the majority of farm injuries, but it is bulls which are the most lethal of all stock. Mr Griffin revealed data that showed that any breed has the potential to be a killer on the farm.

The figures showed that the most populous breed in the beef herd, Charolais, was also responsible for the greatest number of recent fatalities.

Mr Griffin said that when investigating fatal accidents, HSA inspectors often hear that a bull considered 'quiet' for years suddenly became 'angry' and attacked. The HSA inspector said that this is a horrendous event that farmers just have to be ready for. "Always have escape routes planned and have a vehicle, such as a 4X4 or a tractor, ready in case of an attack," he said.

The majority of the victims belonged to an older demographic, with over half of the victims aged 65 or older.

At the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research Centre in Grange, four novel tests were used with both purebred and crossbred beef cattle related to 'animal flight', 'docility', 'fear' and a 'crush' test, where animals were restrained in a cattle crush.


These showed that purebred animals were far less approachable than crossbreds, allowing an approach distance of just half that for crossbreds, before fleeing. The 'fear' test indicated that animals were more agitated when isolated from other animals. Cattle were also less jumpy when in the presence of a stationary person or when concentrate feed was available. The 'crush' test indicated that animals were more agitated in a crush with 12pc being difficult to handle by one person.

Dr Bernadette Earley, who carried out the research, said that the results proved that working with cattle slowly and calmly is crucial to reducing injuries with cattle.

Ireland is already blazing a trail in relation to the data that it is collecting on docility in beef breeds. Despite the trait only having a 30-40pc heritability, the ICBF's Dr Ross Evans said that there is the potential to make progress with breeding safer cattle over time. The docility data is part of a series being collected by farmers through the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme. Dr Evans said that the data collected already proves that there is as much variability with docility within breeds as between breeds, proving that any breed of bull has the potential to cause a fatal accident.

However, he appealed to farmers to be conscious of scoring docility accurately as it "could assist in preventing injuries to farmers in the future".

New Health and Safety Authority guidelines on the 'safe handling of cattle at marts and lairages' were also launched at the seminar. These will assist with practical management of health and safety at high risk locations where large numbers of livestock are assembled.

Meanwhile, there have been calls for farm safety to become part of the requirements within farm payment schemes.

Fine Gael's Andrew Doyle said that farm safety incentives should form part of Agri Environment Options Scheme (AEOS). "The doubling of fatalities on farms to 24 so far this year is alarming," said Mr Doyle. "We must wake up to new thinking on farm safety. Denmark has zero fatalities from farm accidents so it's clear the Irish approach to farm health and safety is not working."

Irish Independent