Farm Ireland

Friday 24 November 2017

A scrape with a bullock gives me a wake-up call on safety

John Heney

I always feel that Christmas is finally over when the last of the cake has been eaten and its back to the Marietta biscuits for the morning coffee.

I was reminded by one of my friends recently that this is also the time of year when many farmers get nightmares that involve the premature appearance of the back wall of the silage pit. In my case it the sudden evaporation of a large clamp of silage into just one day's supply.

Thankfully, it looks as though this will not pose a problem for me this year.

However, after the last few springs we don't need to be reminded that forces well outside our control will dictate letting-out dates.

The question that every farmer has to face at this time of the year is how can we improve? For me, it simply means striving to increase weight gain while at the same time reducing input costs.

I was somewhat disappointed with last year's returns. Despite being better than 2013, considering the excellent summer of 2014 I felt weight-gains really should have been better.

Reading an on-line farm newsletter recently, it seems that it's not just here in Ireland that some farmers feel it's more important to impress their neighbours than actually earn a decent income from their farms.

Making large unnecessary investments simply to impress our fellow farmers is a world-wide phenomenon.

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One morning recently I had just finished feeding my cattle when I noticed one bullock stretched-out motionless on the slats at the back of one pen. Even though everything seemed fine the day before

I quickly resigned myself to the fact that these things can happen and fatalities are a fact of life in farming.

However, on closer inspection I noticed some slight movement in his eyes and ears - otherwise he remained completely motionless.

My first reaction was to get into the pen and try to help him.

However, it didn't turn to be that great an idea, because when I lifted his head up off the slats and tried to prop it up with my knee, he lunged to get up and very nearly knocked me back across the pen that was full with cattle.

Luckily I managed to stay on my feet, but it served as a good warning to me to be a lot more careful in future.

Incidents such as this highlight the dangers inherent in modern farming with most of us now working on our own.

I realise that in such situation we should stop and think for a moment of the very severe consequences that could arise if things were to go wrong.

Luckily this time it all ended well, since when I went to lift him with the tractor, he actually got up and within a few minutes was walking about. He is now out in the field with the four other casualties who are also recovering well.

I had a fairly narrow escape from the consequences of last year's tightening-up in the TB eradication regime, where the buying-in of cattle in locked-up herds was restricted.

Were it not for the fact that I was lucky enough to pass the first test after one of my cattle turned up with lesions in the factory last October,

I could still be waiting to replace the cattle that I sold last autumn.

On recent prices this would have meant that I would have incurred an extra cost of at least €200 per head on all my cattle.

With last year's narrow profit margins, this extra cost of replacement would have been absolutely devastating.

I find it deeply worrying that luck plays such a significant role in the successful operation of our beef enterprises. - enterprises which are still the foundation stones of Irelands multi-billion euro beef exports.

John Heney is a beef farmer farmer from Kilfeakle, Co Tipperary

Indo Farming