Monday 19 March 2018

Ladies, this way for your pedicure!

Maeve O'Keeffe with her parents, Eddie and Linda.
Maeve O'Keeffe with her parents, Eddie and Linda.


TO the untrained eye it may look like a lot of trouble to go to in order to give a cow a pedicure.

TO the untrained eye it may look like a lot of trouble to go to in order to give a cow a pedicure.

However, a revolutionary new machine designed by an entrepreneurial young woman from Ballynoe could potentially save farmers thousands of euro and help improve farm safety.

Maeve O'Keeffe (23) came up with the idea for her turnover hoof paring crate during an 18-month work experience stint in New Zealand while studying for her agricultural science degree.

She noticed that farmers there, unlike their Irish counterparts, would pare the hooves of their own herds.

"The farm I was working on had a 1,300 strong herd and we would have at least half-a-dozen lame cows each morning," said Maeve. "Repairing their hooves was almost a full-time job so it was easier to do it ourselves using a very basic machine to coral the cows."

She said that while all farmers would agree that a lame cow should be treated immediately, Irish farmers almost never do their own paring as it can be a laborious and potentially dangerous task. Instead they tended to wait until a number of cows were lame as the call out charge from the vet was the same regardless of how many cows needed treatment.

Aware of this, Maeve set about designing a machine that would allow Irish farmers to pare the hooves of their own cattle without the hard work and danger normally associated with the task.

The 'Inspect 4' machine safely immobilises an animal before it is lifted and tilted on its side using a hydraulic system.

This leaves all four hooves at waist height to the farmer allowing them to inspect and treat injured hooves on the spot. The process is completely stress free for the animal.

Like most good ideas, it's is based on the simple principle of minimum effort for maximum return.

However, the road to success is often littered with disappointment and Maeve and her parents, Eddie and Linda O'Keeffe of Ballynoe Agri Services, built three machines before finally getting it right. "When we finally got it right, it felt like we had won the Lotto," she laughed.

The cost savings from the device can be significant, particularly for farmers with herds of more than 80 cows, says Maeve.

Built using grant aid from the Avondhu Blackwater Partnership, Inspect 4 won a prestigious innovation award at the recent Tullamore Show and narrowly missed out on a similar award at the National Ploughing Championships.

The machine, which costs in the region of €9,500 to buy, can be mobile or fitted to a wall and can be used for a multitude of other tasks such as dehorning, castrating, dosing and vaccinating.