North Yorkshire meeting in bid to halt farmer death toll from cattle incidents

Small improvements to cattle handling systems can make a big difference to farm safety, the NFU said. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
Small improvements to cattle handling systems can make a big difference to farm safety, the NFU said. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

One of British agriculture’s biggest killers is in urgent need of addressing at a time when more farmers work on their own, industry experts have warned.

Nine farmers have been killed by cattle in the last year alone, and 31 over the last five years, but too many in farming think it will never happen to them, said Andrew Sewell, livestock board member at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

Andrew Sewell, who farms in York, is a member of the National Farmers' Union's livestock board and said the number of deaths in agriculture due to cattle incidents is shocking. Picture courtesy of the NFU.

Andrew Sewell, who farms in York, is a member of the National Farmers' Union's livestock board and said the number of deaths in agriculture due to cattle incidents is shocking. Picture courtesy of the NFU.

Agriculture has the worst rate of fatal injuries to workers per 100,000 of the country’s main industrial sectors. It is 18 times as high as the average rate across all industries.

Figures from the Heath and Safety Executive show that 39 people died as a result of farming or other agriculture-related activities in Britain in 2018/19.

Fatalities involving cattle were second only to deaths from overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles.

To inform safe cattle handling practices, the NFU has teamed up with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board to hold a cattle safety workshop for farmers in Richmondshire next week.

Mr Sewell, who farms in York, said he was shocked by how so many people were injured and killed by cattle every year.

“We need to do something about this urgently,” he said.

“More of us are working alone and we never think anything will happen to us as we are working with cattle day in and day out. But animals can be unpredictable and when something goes wrong farmers are always going to come off worse.”

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Next Wednesday’s event at Greystone Farm, near Richmond, will be used to demonstrate how small improvements to cattle handling systems and simple safety precautions when working alone can help improve health and safety on farms.

Mr Sewell said: “We can all take practical steps to reduce the risks we face and I hope this event will tackle what can be a tricky subject in a positive way, encouraging everyone to take action back on their own farms.

“At the very least I would hope all farmers download the What3Words app to their phone so that if there is an incident they can get help quickly.”

Representatives from What3Words will be at the meeting to talk about how their location finder system works.

The event will include a presentation by cattle handling expert Miriam Parker, who will focus on understanding cattle behaviour and how the design of handling systems affect cattle co-operation and farmer safety.

Ms Parker said: “Managing cattle movement is a true skill, getting animals to move calmly from one place to another. But understanding how animals react and what stimulates them can help producers design better handling facilities.

“Managing cattle movement is not just about a quiet life – it is about improving safety for those handling them – and that is increasingly important as labour on-farm reduces.”

Also attending the event will be NFU farm safety and transport adviser Tom Price and members of farming charities the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution and The Farming Community Network, who will highlight the need to take safety precautions when working alone.

To book a place at the event, email KE.events@ahdb.org.uk or call 01904 771218.

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