30 September 2020
Richard Isaac is a progressive and very experienced third generation beef and sheep farmer who has a 600 acre farm near Ynysybwl in South East Wales. He is also a Farming Connect mentor, with first-hand experience of many elements of running an upland hill farm, taking a particularly keen interest in the effective utilisation of ground water, grassland management and renewable energy.
In recent years, he has grown the family business to approximately 600 acres, which he farms in partnership with his two sons. The family have around 50 Welsh Black suckler cattle and a flock of around 1,800 mainly South Wales Mountain and cross Aberfield ewes.
At the moment, Mr Isaac is recovering from three cracked ribs, the result of a recent farm accident involving a heifer.
“It just shows that however experienced you are, you never know when the unexpected is going to happen, especially when you are handling large animals,” says Mr. Isaac.
“I always try and adhere to best practice across all areas of farming, but in hindsight, I should have realised that I put myself in a vulnerable position by turning my back on a large animal in such close proximity, even if only for a split second.”
Mr Isaac, a former agricultural college lecturer, said he always puts farm safety first, but on this occasion, he was taken completely unaware when a normally docile animal, decided that she wasn’t going to follow the herd, as he and his son moved the cows from the shed towards the cattle crush in readiness for TB testing.
“We were working next to a large, heavy duty metal gate, which had penned them all in, but in the split second I turned my back to go through the gate, one usually quiet heifer panicked and decided to push her head under it in a bid to take a short cut and join the others.”
The gate sprang forward against Mr Isaac, throwing him face-down to the floor with significant force. His son was on hand to quickly help him to his feet, but a short while later, struggling to move and still in a lot of pain, a visit to the Xray unit in his local hospital showed he had three broken ribs. Almost three months later, Mr Isaac is still not up to full strength, but recognises that he had an incredibly lucky escape.
“The accident could have been so much worse, I could easily have lost the ability to work altogether, but I am confident that in time, I should get back to full strength.”
Well known in farming circles, Richard is a former chair of the local Agricultural Training Board and Glamorgan NFU Cymru and is the current NFU Cymru council delegate for Glamorgan. His accident has reminded him of the importance of reducing the risks of farm accidents by taking every possible precaution, and he is keen to warn others of the dangers.
“Stop, think, and never rush any tasks is my advice having been through this myself.
“We should all plan everything we do in advance, ensure we have the right systems or equipment in place to reduce the risk of accidents, stay alert at all times and never rush things.”
Detailed advice on livestock handling is available from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website here. You can also download the helpful HSE booklet ‘What a good farm looks like’ from the Farming Connect website here for detailed advice on handling large animals and all other aspects of farm safety.