Farmers have been warned to check their animal handling facilities for signs of wear and update them if needed.
The warning comes after a recent inquest into a farm death were a farmer was crushed when his cow broke through a holding pen.
At the inquest, a Health and Safety Authority inspector highlighted that there were no obvious visual defects with the crush gate as corrosion in its mountings only became apparent “after the fact”.
The jury recommended that a system of audit and inspection on the use of farm equipment should be put in place for health and safety reasons. Speaking on the matter, Dr John McNamara, Health and Safety Specialist with Teagasc, said it’s “crucial” farmers check their handling facilities for signs of wear and update them if needed.
“A lot of facilities on farms are quite dated now,” he said. “I see it regularly on farms — the equipment and facilities will have been there for a long time and it can be dangerous.
“Updating farm facilities is so important. Corrosion can be particularly prevalent where pillars and steel go into.”
Farmers sometimes tend to “overlook” the handling facilities on out-farms, according to Mr McNamara, who warned against the use of “makeshift” materials.
“Gates should be properly hung and everything should be mounted and secured correctly and constructed properly. Checking your facilities regularly could save lives.”
Facilities on out-farms can often pose problems, according to Tadhg Gavin, Veterinary Ireland Food Animal Chair.
“Out-farms, in particular, are where we’d often see problems. Things like crushes are often not properly maintained and things get loose and worn. They need to be checked and kept up to date.
“Some crushes make it difficult to examine an animal properly or give it the treatment it needs and this impacts a vet’s job and causes a safety issue.”
He says some new crushes have “a design flaw” and fail to take into consideration the “flow” of animals.
“Some of the newer crushes require the farmer or the vet to get in beside the animal, which isn’t safe.
“Farmers constructing new handling facilities should be mindful of making it easy to get out and away from the animal if needed.”