Staying safe this spring

Commodity watch by policy and technical graduate student, Daniel McLaughlin

Spring is officially here, with the equinox earlier this week bringing the start of longer days and shorter nights, with the well-known phrase “there’s a quare stretch in the evenings”, most likely to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

After such a wet and miserable winter, the uplifting mood that comes with spring will be most welcome on farms across Northern Ireland. Farmers and growers will be looking forward to finally getting back out into the fields, with there being a noticeable increase in the number of tractors out on the roads in the last number of weeks. Farm sheds and fields will be ringing out the sound of new life, as lambing and the spring calving season is well underway.

Easter holidays

With the ever-busy farm workload now accompanied with these extra duties, a helping hand is always much appreciated. The upcoming Easter school holidays will allow for the smaller hands to get involved and muck in. Despite the farmyard being an exciting and dynamic working environment, it represents a number of risks and dangers to all involved.

Farm Safety Partnership

The Ulster Farmer’s Union (UFU) along with other stakeholders, are part of the Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) and encourage all farming families and those working on farms to be mindful and conscious of their safety not only at this busy time, but throughout the whole year.

The “Stop and Think SAFE” campaign has been hugely successful in raising awareness of the four main dangers on the farm and regularly appears on TV. The SAFE acronym refers to slurry, animals, falls and equipment, all of which are extremely relevant at this time, given the need to get slurry out following the pressures bad weather has brought, working closely with livestock, machinery and other farm equipment, as well as staying safe around the yard.


Calving can be a stressful time for cattle, with a rush of hormones before and after birth which trigger maternal instincts to kick in making for unpredictable and protective behaviours. Despite bulls having a dangerous reputation, cows and heifers can also pose a safety risk on the farm.

When handling cattle either before, during or after calving, if possible, try to have someone else present. Farmers and those handling livestock should always be vigilant for signs of aggression or a change in temperament and should never turn their backs on an animal. Escape routes in the event of an attack should always be planned for, and it is vital that children remain away and never enter livestock sheds alone or without supervision.

It is also important to keep dogs away from calving areas as their presence may provoke the cow, endangering those working there. Calving gates are a simple but incredibly useful tool to help restrain the cow when needing to work closely with her at the point of calving, but also when needing to handle the calf on its own.


The Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) have a range of helpful resources and materials on their website covering safety on the farm, addressing several potential risks and dangers including those relating to calving and working safely with livestock.

These can be accessed using the link under the “Agriculture” heading.