A Risky business, really

Today at farming college I was reminded once again of the dangers of farming having heard the story of a long time milker who lost an eye after an accident with detergent. After forty five years farming, of doing the same routine job cleaning the bulk tank, he lost an eye. When I started going to the milking parlour, I saw the dangers everywhere. The size of those cows, what are they, 600 kilos? My farmer used to shrug ‘I mind myself don’t worry.’ And on that tractor? Do you always put the shovel to the ground? ‘I do. I do.’ And when walking in the yard, I ask if he covers up the agitation points where there are grids for hoses to run down into the deep deep slurry tanks; a swamp that would kill a man in minutes. I dare not think about it but unfortunately I have to. There is a lot of stake. There are children now, our family.

There are times when the children farm with us although I try for the most part to keep them out of the milking parlour. It’s no place for them. Unfamiliar voices make the cows nervous. How do I know? Cows tend to raise their tails and make their sentiments known if you get my meaning. The children because they are reared to it, for the most part, know cows well enough to keep well back or know how near they can come. I hope. For although they are very placid animals, they can’t be trusted.

Some weeks back I was milking a couple of rounds for my farmer while he ate a breakfast. I can now, you know, and I love helping out. I was so proud of myself, letting the girls into the parlour, putting on the clusters, feeding them, milking them, spraying them and opening the gate to let them out. But then it came. I mistimed one cow walking out of the parlour, put my hand up on her near a bar as she stepped back. A rookie mistake and a painful one. Everything went blue the pain was so harsh. I couldn’t speak. It took a few seconds for the pain to register with my brain so I closed the gate and bent over in two experiencing a pain that I can only explain as blue. Sheer blue pain. Dull, sharp pain. My hand doubled in size immediately. I was lucky I didn’t break my hand but it still has the hue of a hand that had been caught between a cow and a steel bar. The children’s heads are at the same level that my hand was at, if a cow kicked them, well, I can’t think. But I have to.

Farming is a dangerous, dangerous business with complacency it’s biggest risk. For when you stop seeing the dangers or taking care by rushing or skipping safety procedures, you are putting yourself and others at extreme danger. Please farm safely out there.

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