The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has launched an “intensive” farm inspection campaign focused on safety during the calving season.

Beginning next Monday (January 24), the two-week campaign will see inspectors concentrate on the safe management of livestock on farms.

The HSA said that during the calving season the risk of injury to farmers increases significantly.

The organisation outlined that 196 people in Ireland were killed while working on farming activities over the past decade; of these fatalities, 38 involved livestock.

During 2021, working with cattle accounted for three fatalities on Irish farms.


Although there was a significant drop in farm fatalities over the past 12 months, Pat Griffin, a senior HSA inspector, noted that “there are still far too many deaths in the agriculture sector as well as a substantial number of very serious injuries”.

“Working with livestock is a key incident trigger and farmers must make their physical safety an absolute priority.

“During this time of year, which includes the 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,” Griffin said.

The HSA has published some key questions that farmers should ask themselves while handling livestock:

  • Is there a plan in place to minimise the risk of attack?
  • Has an adequate physical barrier been established between the farmer and the freshly calved cow when tagging, treating and handling calves?
  • Is there adequate lighting in the yard and farm buildings?
  • Do you need help? Are the extra resources trained and experienced?
  • Are facilities and procedures adequate for loading and unloading animals?

Griffin said that farmers should put safety measures in place as cows, and especially heifers, can be unpredictable before, during or after calving and may become aggressive.

He added that in the case of dairy herds, in particular, farmers may be managing larger numbers of livestock:

“There must therefore be enough space and shelter for the number, size and class of cattle being held. Good calving facilities and holding areas where cows can be monitored remotely are important and can help reduce farmer fatigue.

“Well-prepared calving units with clean bedding, calving gates and the necessary equipment will ensure safety and reduce stress both on farmers and on the animal,” Griffin advised.

“With much of calving happening during short and often dull days, or at night, farmers are encouraged to have plenty of well-positioned lights in calving units and around the farmyard as this will greatly improve visibility and safety,” the senior HSA inspector concluded.

The HSA added that its website contains multiple free guides for farmers on the safe handling of livestock.