Farm Ireland

Saturday 21 July 2018

Farmer on why he has taken quad safety into his own hands

John Heney now wears a safety helmet every time he uses his quad
John Heney now wears a safety helmet every time he uses his quad

John Heney

I have always found the sense of peace and goodwill which surrounds Christmas Day and the few days afterwards to be a refreshing break from the capitalist system with its relentless marketing and pervasive consumer culture.

But as Christmas fades from our minds it's back to business as usual with the slight lengthening of the January evenings signalling the impending arrival of spring.

On the fodder front, I think that luck may be on my side. I feel that I have sufficient silage to see me through until spring - that is if our weather improves and spring arrives on time.

My main hope for the coming year is that my cattle will perform near to or equal to how they have done over the past two years, a period where they achieved their best weight gains ever.

The weather will always have the final say when it comes to beef weight gain. On my farm natural grass growth is the big factor as to how well my cattle will or will not thrive over the summer months.

That said, I realise that we must continually strive to improve our farming systems. For instance I am looking forward to seeing how the section of my farm which I have converted to an eight paddock system works out over a full grazing season.

However, I'm not expecting any miracles from this new system. As all my grass is in old pasture and I don't use fertiliser on my grazing fields, there won't be any February 10 turn-out for me.

I am hoping to get some cattle out in early March which would give me a good start to the grazing season, but it will probably be well into April before the last of my cattle go out on grass.

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Most people realise at this stage that modern farming in spite of all its innovations and progress has now evolved into a very solitary occupation.

However, one aspect of farming which will never change is our dependence on nature's ecological system as it continues to evolve and develop day after day, year after year right before our eyes.

I firmly believe that the real challenge facing modern farming is to develop our farming enterprises in harmony with our natural ecosystems.

This is by far the greatest challenge facing modern farming .

With this in mind, not alone is our yearly farm-plan hugely important but I believe that the constant daily monitoring and managing of our farm to be equally as important.

Quad safety

To assist in the farm management, I purchased a farm quad some years ago, it has turned out to be the most valuable piece of equipment on the farm.

Tasks such as checking stock, water supply, fencing repairs, moving cattle and of course monitoring grass growth in paddocks are now easily accomplished in a fraction of the time they would have taken previously.

There is of course a very serious downside to the use of farm quads, and we have become all too well aware of the many injuries and tragic fatalities resulting from the use of these machines.

By and large quad manufacturers continue to resist the fitting of roll-over type safety frames on their quads.

It has even got to the stage where one of the largest quad producers in the world is reported to be taking a case against companies supplying these roll-over bars, claiming that these safety devices could actually make quads more dangerous.

Change may be at hand, however, as one US-based quad manufacturer has broken ranks and recently announced production of a quad complete with its own safety frame including a full-sized seat, side netting and a safety belt. However, there currently appears to be a question mark over their availability in Ireland

Fed up with all this procrastination, I decided to try making a roll-over bar for my own quad. After all it's my safety that I'm talking about!

I now have a neat but simply made roll bar firmly attached to the rear carrier frame of my quad which, if my quad happens to topple over, will prevent it from pinning me to the ground.

Another positive to come from my new roll bar is, that as there is a likelihood that I may strike my head against this new bar, I now wear a safety helmet every time I use my quad.

So far, banging my head on the bar does not appear to be an issue, but I have now got into the very good habit of wearing the helmet every time I use the quad which is at least one really good outcome to emerge from the whole exercise.

John Heney is a beef farmer from Kilfeacle, Co Tipperary. Follow him on Twitter @johnheney

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