Limerick farmers warned over dangers of 'selfies'

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

An example of many of cow and newly born calf photos on social media. How long would it take for the cow to charge at the farmer?

An example of many of cow and newly born calf photos on social media. How long would it take for the cow to charge at the farmer?

SOCIAL media is an excellent outlet for farmers, as the job can be a lonely pursuit.

A new trend has emerged on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram of sharing photos of cows and newly-born calves, and in some cases ‘selfies’ of the farmer with the animals.

Farmers are understandably proud of their agricultural progeny but safety comes first. It is only a matter of time before a farmer is attacked by a protective cow while their phone is poised. Even the quietest animal can turn in a flash. Cow attacks around calving time have increased in recent years, and now surpass bull attacks as the number one livestock-related cause of deaths, says Teagasc.

Chairperson of Limerick ICMSA, Tom Blackburn said that it could be “very dangerous indeed” to get close to a calf while the mother was in the vicinity. 

“I’m constantly amazed at how careless people can be - everyone must know that an animal after giving birth is a very different animal to the one you might have thought you knew well. Certainly, whatever about dairy cows, I would always tell people to be very wary indeed and very careful around suckler cows with calves,” said Mr Blackburn, who farms in Effin.

He says he has two concerns ahead of the main calving season over this growing trend of cow and calf photos.

“Firstly, the safety of the farmer and anyone in proximity to the cows, and secondly, why would people do anything like this that is going to obviously bother the cows or distress them? And for the sake of a picture on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook?

“I just don’t understand it but I’m very sure about one thing and that is that you must be incredibly careful around a cow and calf. Very serious injuries – or worse – can be inflicted in a few seconds where people are distracted and stop focusing on the reality of their situation,” said Mr Blackburn.

One person who sadly knows more than most about the effect a farm fatality can have is Norma Rohan, who is originally from Broadford. Tragically, her husband Brian’s father Liam died in a farm accident in 2012. Norma and Brian set up Embrace FARM – Farm Accident Support Network after realising that there was little or no help or support for families that have suffered as a result of farm fatalities. 

“The sense of loss can be overwhelming for farm families in these circumstances. The emotional trauma with the fact you don’t just lose a family member but can also lose a boss and a mentor. The implications are felt right across the business, from farming itself to legal and financial advice,” they say. Embrace FARM provides an immensely important service but Mrs Rohan says they “don’t want any new members in 2018”.

“There is no farmer that goes out there and thinks that they are going to kill themselves or kill somebody else by their daily activity. Most farmers are just going out to try and do their day-to-day work.

“What we would say to people is to take whatever advice is going, take whatever guidelines are going, take them on board so they can get back in that door that evening to their families,” said Mrs Rohan, who can be contacted at  embrace.farm@gmail.com