Farm leader in cow attack safety warning

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

image captionFarmer Victor Chestnutt shows Keith Morrison of the Health and Safety Executive the horns of the cow which almost killed him

A senior figure in the Ulster Famers' Union has described how he was almost gored to death by a cow.

In a bid to raise awareness about farm safety, Victor Chestnutt spoke about how he was badly injured by a Highland cow, a breed with long curved horns.

She had recently calved when she attacked him during a TB test a number of years ago, Mr Chestnutt recalled.

The animal was destroyed but the farmer kept the horns as a reminder of the need for caution.

image captionRecently calved cows pose a potential risk to farmers

He has told the story as part of Farm Safety Week which is designed to reduce fatalities and injuries on farms.

Six people were killed on farms in Northern Ireland in 2016 and there have already been a number of fatalities this year.

The Health and Safety Executive says as many as 100 people a month in Northern Ireland require hospital treatment after accidents on farms.

Mr Chestnutt, who is from Bushmills and is a deputy president of the union, said he had bought the Highland cow because a family member "liked the look of them".

image captionMr Chestnutt has had several near misses with cattle over the years

He knew she was "steamed up" that day but the speed with which she turned on him caught him by surprise, he said.

He needed surgery for serious leg injuries after she gored him in a pen.

"It did my confidence for some time," he recalled. "I was very fortunate - I could have been killed."

"It really got to me that I had set my limits but she was still fit to get me."

An experienced cattle breeder and handler, Mr Chestnutt has had three near misses with livestock.

He said farmers needed to avoid complacency and be aware of the dangers.

He also said effective cattle handling facilities could help prevent injuries.

image captionGood cattle handling facilities can prevent accidents

The Health and Safety Executive is organising a week of publicity around farm safety.

Chief Executive Keith Morrison urged farmers to stop and think for a short time before undertaking any task.

"We're not saying don't do things, we're saying manage the risk," he said.

Most accidents happen as a result of falls, accidents involving machinery, livestock and slurry.