As we celebrate Christmas day (today, December 25) and approach the year’s end, it is appropriate and customary to take stock of the last 12 months.

While they have been incredibly challenging in so many ways, there are some positives to be had: we are here; we are, hopefully, happy and healthy; and, generally speaking, we are looking forward to 2022 and the brighter days to come.

As we give thanks for what we have, we also give our very best wishes to those whose year has been more challenging than others, whose lives have been impacted by loss, grief and sadness.

Farm fatalities

Sadly, in 2021, nine fatalities occurred on our family farms. Each and every one of those individuals, and their families, are in our hearts today.

We are also thinking of those of you who may have suffered a trauma or had an accident on the farm in 2021, and we wish you the speediest and fullest of recoveries.

A time to reflect

According to Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) Martin Heydon, now is a good time to to reflect on 2021 and plan ahead for 2022 – ensuring that farm safety is front and centre of that plan.

In his Christmas message, the minister, who has responsibility for farm safety, is urging all farmers to take time over the Christmas period to review the safety of their farms and update their farm risk assessment.

Doing this will involve asking the following, he said:

  • How many of the identified risks did I deal with over the last year? 
  • What risks that have been identified in the risk assessment will I address this year?
  • Does the risk assessment reflect all the risks on my farm?

Make the risk list and check it twice – at the very least.

“As we take time with our families over Christmas, we must remember that the most vulnerable people on any farm are children and those over the age of 65. A farm is a wonderful place to spend the holidays, but we must be conscious that they remain working environments,” he said.

Calving just around the corner

“The calving season is also just around the corner and the first newborns will arrive in the coming days,” he said, urging caution around all freshly calved cows, and especially, heifers.

“They can be unpredictable during or after calving, and may become aggressive. They are involved in more fatal incidents than bulls,” he said.

So, now is the time to plan for a safe calving season, he explained:

“Start by asking yourself, are my facilities in good condition? Do they allow me to always keep a barrier between myself and the cow when I am handling the calf?  If changes are required to the facilities or systems, now is the time to do it.”

As he wished all farming families a happy, safe and peaceful Christmas and new year, he said:

“I want 2022 to be the year when farmers stop and think, every morning before they go out on the farm, about what they are going to do for the day and how they will do it safely.”

Let’s all toast to that this Christmas day.