Farm Ireland

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Be aware of calving dangers

I got a phone call from a friend last week.

"I want you to do a favour for me. I feel that I'm very lucky to be alive. Maybe if you can convey my experience, it can act as a warning to other farmers at this busy time of the year."

The man on the other end of the phone was Cyril Goode, Seabank, Arklow, Co Wicklow.

Vet, farmer and former secretary of the Irish Simmental Cattle Society. He was speaking from a hospital bed in Dublin where he was nursing broken ribs on both sides of his body.

His story went like this.

"Calving of our suckler herd was in full swing. So much so that the calving pens were full and the conveyor line was starting to back up. In one shed we had 30 first-calving heifers bedded on straw and with a feeding passage along a barrier.

"Overnight two of the heifers calved, then another and then another. With four newborn calves I was afraid of a mix-up so I decided to remove them to separate mothering-up pens. As it happened two of the heifers and calves were close to the shed door when I went to get them out.

"As I guided them out one calf hung back. It was nervous about coming down off the straw bed. When I went to handle the calf the mother suddenly attacked me. I had a fork in my hand and I tried to fight her off but she knocked me and kept hitting me.

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"I have no memory of what happened next but I must somehow have climbed through the feed barrier for my next memory was of being in the kitchen, blood spewing from my tongue and phoning around for help. My daughter-in-law was first on the scene and an ambulance brought me to the hospital. Even though the pain of the smashed ribs is severe I feel very lucky to be alive."


Cyril's point is that he was fully aware of the dangers from wicked cattle and of cows around calving time, yet he still got caught.

He has calved thousands of cows and heifers of all breeds and ages and would always be watching for the warning signs of danger.

What should he have done differently in the situation outlined above?

"I should not have gone into the shed on my own."

But what about the tens of thousands of one-man farms?

"In that situation the calving set up should be designed with gates and barriers so that you can move cows without being exposed to an attack."

I wish Cyril a speedy and full recovery -- and a safe calving season to all and sundry.

Indo Farming