Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland farm chief was impaled on horn of charging cow

By Allan Preston

A Co Antrim farmer has spoken about how he was nearly killed when he was speared by the horn of an aggressive Highland cow.

Victor Chestnutt (58), vice president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, runs a livestock farm near Bushmills.

Speaking about Farm Safety Week, he said: "When you get a group of farmers together talking about their near misses, it can be scary.

"I have been injured with cattle before.

"You always set your limits, but sometimes as you get older the cattle seem to get quicker."

And recalling his own brush with death, he added: "A number of years ago I got done by a Highland cow, the type of one you see on the wrapper of Highland Toffee.

"She was quite a wicked wee cow and I knew that. I said she'd never get me, because I'd watch her."

Despite his caution, he was badly injured when the animal charged.

"I went into a pen to get her out and the calf was in front of her, so I was fully expecting her to come forward," he said.

"I went down beside another animal when I saw her racing towards me.

"I jumped through a barrier in a cattle shed, but she got my upper leg trapped with her horn.

"I was jumping when she caught me.

"But I fell into the next pen and she couldn't get at me.

"If I had fallen into the same pen as the cow, she would have finished me off."

Mr Chestnutt needed surgery after his lucky escape, and said it was pure luck that he survived to tell the tale.

"People talk about what you should do in a situation like that, but they don't realise that once you're injured, you'll do nothing, you're in a state of shock," he said.

"Animals are bigger and stronger than you.

"But, of course, that's just one area - machinery and things like quad bikes are some of the other dangers."

He said Farm Safety Week was a vital time for those working in the agricultural sector to reflect on the many risks they face daily.

"Things like this happen to a lot of people, but you can think: 'It won't happen to me'. But you should be thinking: 'I'm at risk, it could be me'."

He said part of the problem was that farmers could fall into a routine and let their guard down. "I think what we need to emphasise for farmers is just 'stop and think'. So often we have five or six jobs going on at once. Quite often you get familiar with things in your daily routine and you don't always give it the degree of caution you should.

"Farmers are under different pressures, it's a constant battle to keep farm safety utmost in your mind.

"It's about keeping a culture and a habit of asking: 'Is that the best way I can do that? Is there a safer way?'"

While having "plenty of near misses with machinery", he said his only injuries on the farm to date have come from livestock.

"Slurry causes a lot of problems, too. People can have the experience of mixing slurry for 20 years, but can end up losing livestock or even their own lives," he pointed out.

"One way that can happen is if an animal became trapped in a slurry shed, in that situation a farmer's natural instinct is to run in to save them.

"The only safe way to do it is to make sure your stock's out, start mixing and stay out."

He added: "Farms are dangerous places, but you can certainly do a lot to reduce it."

Belfast Telegraph

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