As the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine launches a National Farm Safety Initiative, and in the first of a series of articles on farm safety, Sarah Corcoran recalls how her father was submerged in a river by a bullock and didn’t survive. 

For as long as I can remember I have seen my dad come home, through the door after 12 or 14 hours at work on the farm. A cut on the head, a limp or some other ailment was not an uncommon sight.

As with many farmers he just got on with working. There was always something to be done and he only ever took time out when it was either too dark or too late to stay on the farm any longer.

Through out my childhood years I loved to hear the daily stories of what was happening on the farm and how he had got on. As I worked with my Dad over the last few years, I would often just pause and look in amazement at the volume of work this 79-year-old man could get through daily. It not just a job but a vocation.

Dad was ‘Old School’. I would try and explain to my dad about health and safety on farms and he had to try and work safer but he would just laugh at the good of it. I do actually believe he thought I was talking nonsense. It’s like with everyone or everything, no one thinks its going to happen to them.

For my dad the work simply had to be done in the cheapest way possible. I guess we just accepted that this was his way until one tragic evening in August 2013.

My Dad stocked continental cattle for finishing beef. On a typical day, Dad would herd the cattle before finishing for the night. On occasions I would have been with him until 1 or 2am with flash lamps looking for one or two missing animals.

On that fateful night, Dad set out to complete his usual herding and discovered that he was one animal short. As was his way he stayed out looking for the bullock until it was found. The bullock was found in a river that ran parallel to the field where the cattle were. This was a river the cattle used to drink from. My Dad got my Mum, and two neighbours to help him get the bullock out of the drain. At this stage it was about 9pm and getting dark.

In an effort to move the bullock down the river to an area where it would be easier to get the bullock out my dad lost his footing and slipped over the bank and fell into the river.  The bullock reared up and submerged my Dad. Even though there was three others there with my dad there was nothing they could do. The bullock had my dad submerged in seconds. Sadly Dad never survived and became one of the 17 farm fatalities of 2013.

Dad was never one to think of his own personal safety but rather the well-being of the livestock. If he had taken a moment to think of his own safety, maybe this accident might easily have been prevented. In this instance the conditions needed to be examined. It was gone too dark for my dad to be able to see where he was walking and fell over the edge of the bank.

Please, remember farming is a dangerous occupation. Keep your mind on your work but don’t let it compromise your safety. Always have a plan in the event of an accident.

Sarah Corcoran
Environmental Health Specialist, Bord Gais Energy