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Independent.ie

Thursday 26 April 2018

Why this farmer thinks there should be no farm payments unless tractors pass an NCT

Attention to detail and innovation are the hallmarks of the health and safety winners in this year's Farmer of the Year awards

Michael Callinan with his sons Mark and Liam on the farm at Oakdale, Skeagh, Inagh, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward
Michael Callinan with his sons Mark and Liam on the farm at Oakdale, Skeagh, Inagh, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward

Siobhán English

"The standard was so high on both farms it was impossible to split them."

That was verdict from Pat Griffin of the Health and Safety Authority who was on the judging panel for the Excellence in Farm Safety category during the recent Zurich Farm Insurance Farming Independent Farmer of the Year Awards.

"Both Michael (Callinan) and Jack (Murphy) were worthy joint-winners."

"What really stood out for me when visiting Michael's farm was his energy and enthusiasm," says Pat. "He had developed so many systems - from cattle handling facilities to a system for handling wrapped silage which is genius."

Michael has also invested in trap doors for the silage tanks, as well as calving gates by applying for the TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes) grant.

"The farm was particularly tidy and to be honest a lot of farmers would learn from visiting his place," said Mr Griffin

Produced by Michael five years ago, the system for disposing plastic from wrapped silage is something that would really appeal to many farmers.

Using a motorised device, the plastic is reduced to the size of a small square bale which can be easily sent for recycling.

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"So many times it ended up all over the farm and it would take half a day to sort, so it was time to do something to ensure it was packed properly," says Michael.

It is one of many initiatives taken by Michael in recent years to ensure the farm is a safe environment for himself, his wife Chris and three young children.

Winner of the Livestock Award during the 2016 FBD Farmyard Awards, this latest accolade has given him the incentive to go that one step further. "I was thrilled to win the award and it really helps you to 'up' your game," he says.

A second-generation farmer, Michael works part-time as a bar manager at The Falls Hotel in Ennistymon, Co Clare, but when at home he is busy tending to his beef herd which is a small herd of pure-bred Limousins and calves, later sold off as weanlings.

In recent years he has completed several safety courses, including one in Ennis run by the IFA. "It is so important that farmers attend these courses," Pat says. "Even if you take home only one thing, it might just save a life."

Two years ago Michael invested in the Moocall calving alert system.

"My wife is at home all day and is very much involved in the farm so it is a fantastic device for both of us to use. It eliminates time wasted and ensures that you can get a decent night's sleep at least."

With three children under the age of 16, Michael is all too aware of making the farm a safe place, and stresses that designated play areas for children on farms are of vital importance.

"There are so many areas that we can look at to make the farm a safer place. When inspecting premises the Health and Safety Authority wants to see that your chemicals and medicines are stored correctly. It is hard to believe that some people are still not disposing of needles correctly," he says.

Michael also believes that tractors should be subjected to MOTs, with certificates to be produced in order to receive the Single Farm Payments. The use of quads is also another area of concern for him.

"They can be such a hazard and there seems to be a good amount of illegal driving on roads where people are using them for towing trailers. It is an accident waiting to happen."

With Farm Safety Week having taken place just two weeks ago Michael was sadly reminded of the high number of fatalities that have taken place in Clare in recent years.

"Accidents are not freak accidents as often quoted in the media," comments Pat Griffin. "They are caused mainly by people being under pressure, rushing, and fatigue."

"The importance of a good night's sleep cannot be over-emphasised.

"You can deal with two nights disrupted, but if it runs into a third night, you are seriously at risk," he concluded.


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