It has been confirmed by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) that 400 farm inspections are planned for this month.

The fortnight-long, intensive farm inspection campaign is scheduled to begin on Monday, February 12.

A special focus will be placed on the safe handling of livestock, the HSA added.

After tractors and machinery, accidents involving livestock are the next most common cause of fatalities on Irish farms. Between 2008 and 2017, approximately 13% of all fatal farm accidents were livestock related – with half of those involving cows and heifers.

Inspectors from the HSA will be focusing on the common risks encountered and livestock safety in general – as the calving season is in full swing on many farms across the country.

Areas being assessed during the livestock safety campaign include:
  • Is an adequate physical barrier established between the farmer and freshly calved cow when treating or handling calves?
  • Is there an escape plan for animal birthing activity?
  • Is there ongoing investment in animal handling facilities, for example, crush, head scoop and calving gate?
  • Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?

Farmers are encouraged to have plenty of well-positioned lights around the farmyard in order to improve visibility and safety – as a significant amount of work during the calving season occurs at night or during short days.

Good handling facilities and holding areas where cows can be monitored remotely are important, the HSA added.

As well as this, calving units with calving gates will ensure safety and reduce stress on farmers and the animal, the authority explained.

Planning work with safety in mind is particularly important at this busy time of year on farms, according to the CEO of the HSA, Martin O’Halloran.

During what is now a more concentrated calving period, fatigue and increased stress levels are almost inevitable.

“However, some early planning can make a significant difference. This should include checking over everything that is needed to manage calving, while continuing to feed stock.

“Review the overall tidiness of the yard, the free and safe movement of machinery, the condition of tractors, loaders, diet feeders, calving jacks and the availability and placement of fresh bedding. Also, clean and well-bedded calving units will give you a good start,” he said.

The authority is set to undertake three targeted agriculture inspection campaigns during the coming year.

These will include:
  • February – Livestock Safety;
  • May – Vehicle Safety;
  • October – Safe Working at Heights.

A free guidance document on the safe handling of cattle on farms is available on the HSA’s website.