Farm accidents

'I ran as hard as I could, she charged after me': Farmer attacked by cow speaks about farm safety

Brendan McLoughlin told his story as the HSA launched its farm safety inspection campaign.

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“I’M LUCKY TO be alive, that’s all I can tell you, very lucky to be alive.” 

A farmer who was involved in a serious farm accident has told his story to highlight livestock safety. 

Brendan McLoughlin has been farming for the past 40 years. 

“I was very health and safety aware of all animals all my life and never had a problem. Always knew to watch, watch your back at all times,” McLoughlin said. 

Despite this, McLoughlin found himself caught up in a serious incident with a cow on his farm one day. 

Six days before the accident, one of McLoughlin’s cow’s had calved. 

On the day of the accident, he opened the gate between the cow’s pen and the calving pen. The cow moved towards the gate of the pen to look at the calf.

From there, McLoughlin walked around to the feeding passage and got into the pen behind the cow to move her towards the calf’s pen. 

That was the moment things took a turn for the worst. 

“I clapped her on the back, she actually froze. I sensed there’s something wrong here,” McLoughlin said. 

I ran for it as hard as I could go. She came charging after me and I could just see straight ahead of me and I dashed through a feeding gate.

However, the cow caught McLoughlin’s leg, hit his ankle and wouldn’t let go.

“I pulled myself back to the wall and then I nearly passed out,” he said. 

McLoughlin managed to call his wife, who rushed out to the farm to his aid. 

“The pain was horrific,” he said.

Following the accident, McLoughlin’s leg was put in a cast for 10 weeks. During this time, he couldn’t work and he had to move his bed downstairs. 

He faced two surgeries on his legs, which has left him with plates and screws. He also had to attend physiotherapy every week. 

“It’s unbelievable what I have been through. I think it was a wake-up call. I have to slow down, I cannot run anymore now, I can walk with a limp,” he said. 

Speaking of caring for cows during calving, McLoughlin said: “You never trust an animal at calving, never do. I shouldn’t have taken her out of the pen, she should have been in the crush gate.

I’m lucky to be alive, that’s all I can tell you, very lucky to be alive. If she had got the body, I was gone. 

Livestock safety

McLoughlin was telling his story to coincide with the launch of the Health and Safety Authority’s (HSA) farm safety inspection campaign, which is focusing on the safe management of livestock during calving season when the risk of injuries to farmers increases significantly. 

Livestock is the number one cause of accidents on Irish farms, accounting for 42% of all injuries, according to the HSA. 

In relation to fatalities, incidents involving livestock are the second most common cause. 

In the 10-year period between 2009 and 2018, 16% of all fatal farm accidents (33 deaths) were livestock related, with 18 of these deaths involving cows and heifers. 

“Although 2018 saw a 40% decline in farm fatalities, there are still far too many deaths in the agriculture sector as well as a substantial number of very serious injuries,” HSA senior inspector Pat Griffin said. 

“Working with livestock is a key incident trigger and there is no room for complacency amongst farmers. During calving period, increased fatigue and stress levels are common. However, early planning and preparation can make a significant difference in the safe management of livestock and help prevent injury or even death,” he said. 

A range of free guidance material in relation to livestock and other farm safety hazards is available on the HSA’s website

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