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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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VIDEO: ‘You get your car serviced, but you do not look after your health’ – 220-cow farmer

Older farmers can continue to be safe and productive – that is one of the key messages from Teagasc’s new joint collaborative farm safety digital media campaign with the HSA, Farm Safety Partnership and FBD Insurance.

The bodies have produced a series of short videos containing industry-leading life-saving advice covering livestock handling, farmer’s health, sheep farming, chemicals, children, slurry handling, harvesting and farm machinery.

In its older persons safety video, the partners stressed that the ability to recognise age-related risk factors, as well as the willingness to modify expectations and physical activity accordingly are “key”.

A spokesperson said: “As farmers grow older like all other workers, their physical capabilities will decline, and they face more strength, flexibility, eyesight, hearing, and health challenges.”

“The ability of an older farmer to carry out jobs they have always done can be more difficult and physically demanding.”

Farm deaths involving older farmers (65 years) now account for 45% of fatal accidents on farms.

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Tractors, machinery, and livestock are the main causes of fatal accidents among older farmers.

The key requirement with tractors, farm vehicles and machinery is to ensure that they are properly maintained, particularly their brakes (including hand-brakes), steering systems, cabs and doors.

Additionally, operators need to very aware of other people working in close proximity to the vehicle.

Some safety tips in this video:
  • Plan jobs and have good livestock facilities – managing livestock can be physically demanding;
  • Seek assistance when you require it – Some tasks may be difficult to complete alone;
  • Leave other, more dangerous tasks like working at heights a specialist contractor;
  • Consider mobility; think about tasks and the ability to carry them out safely.
  • Also consider equipment that will help to improve safety.
Dairy farmers

John Fitzgerald is a dairy farmer from Co Waterford, milking circa 220, in partnership with his son, Shane.

Operating a spring-calving system, all heifers are contract-reared, while all bull calves are sold when they are weeks old.

John’s long-term goal is to assist on the farm, but on a smaller scale, and it is now that he is making changes to pave the way for this.


In his opinion, “it is not all about labour-saving; it is about preventing accidents on the farm”.

“Any plus, my health is another thing, which I am looking after at the moment as well. As I get older, I have regular health checks.”

“In our local agricultural co-op over the last few years, a nurse comes and does blood tests and cardio checks.”

“So, I was high in cholesterol, and then I had to follow up with my GP, which I thought was a great idea as a lot of farmers are slow to do.”

“I think it is very important. You get your car serviced, but you do not look after your health,”

He continued: “Health and safety are very important to me on this farm, particularly as I get older.”

“We have to take a lot of steps on this farm to try and alleviate that, particularly when it comes to lifting things, buckets, feeding calves and that,” he added.

Changes they have made on-farm include:
    • Automatic feeders;
    • A trolley for transporting milk to calves;
    • A scoop for handling the cows and hoofcare;
    • A hoist for lifting cows’ legs.
    • Sweeper for JCB to keep yard clean;
    • Machine for cleaning cubicles – complete task in circa 20 minutes now;
    • A cage around open slurry tank;
    • Construct two more silage pits, as the existing one was unsafe.

Previous article in this series on harvesting safety.

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