If the message isn’t getting through, then it’s time to deliver the message in a different way. That’s just what Dairygold Co-op are trying to do.

Denis Guiry, Dairygold’s milk adviser invited me to an event focusing on changing the culture around farm safety and wellness in Teagasc Moorepark last week.

I agreed to go along because the wellbeing of farmers and the safety of farmers and farming families and little children is important to me.

As we age we are more vulnerable and we need to be alert to physical hazards. We must also understand that our emotional and mental health have a huge role to play.

If we are unwell, stressed, frustrated or depressed then we are far more likely to have an accident or cause one. None of us want that on our conscience.

Embrace cultural change

Farm safety is constantly on the radar from organisations like Teagasc and Embrace Farm and the Health and Safety Authority.

Yet still too many farm accidents occur every year. The number of fatalities on farms is still far too high.

It translates to one thing only and that is that we are not listening in the way that we should and making the changes that are necessary.

I contend that every farmer knows that there’s a right and wrong way to do things. We understand risk and yet still take the chance.

Unfortunately, it takes a near miss or accident for us to make the change necessary.

Research has found that 80% of farmers make changes after an incident has happened on the farm. We are busy. We have time constraints. We tend to put safety evaluation and necessary actions on the long finger. Let’s change this.

Compelling drama

Joe Kirk, project leader for the European Innovation Partnership that is leading out this training on Farm safety and wellness introduced the event. The team involved includes technical experts and is farmer led.

Joe explained the involvement of the late Dr Pat Bogue UCD and others and the willingness of Dairygold to embrace this initiative on behalf of its members.

Basically it was a drama production in three parts set in a day in the life of a dairy farm. From the moment Rob, the father, walked onto the stage I was spellbound. He was joined by Susie, his daughter.

What we saw dramatised were scenes that are played out every day in kitchens and in farm yards across Ireland. We saw ourselves. We recognised the messages. Things need fixing. The jobs pile up. There’s no time.

A stressful career

Farming can be stressful. Things can go wrong. It is a complicated business. Inheritance and succession are huge milestones in the lives of both generations.

It has to be planned. There isn’t a farmer that wouldn’t like a son or daughter to follow in his/her footsteps, yet many fall down in the planning process.

A farmer who is stressed, a workaholic and doesn’t take time off is only going to drive away a young enthusiastic, well educated person.

If you resist change, fail to plan and generally insist that life on the farm and the way of doing things remains the same, then you are in trouble.

It’s not easy but you must plan to give the young farmer some management control very quickly. You must change and invest in the farm, address budgeting and work life balance for all concerned and be prepared to live a bit too.

Everything was included in this drama and I don’t want to ruin it for others by telling you too much about it. Do try to see it if you can.

It will be offered via webinar and it will also be offered in a recorded fashion so that farmers can view it in their own time. It is a training tool so there will be questions to answer but the drama hands them to us on a plate.

Rob and Susie have stayed with me. I find I’m thinking about them. It was a powerful dramatic production and I will watch it again.

I believe this training module for Dairygold co-op members will encourage and promote wellness and indirectly improve the implementation of farm safety measures on farms.

Foresight is a wonderful thing and a cultural change on the farm could mean the difference between being plunged into grief and regret instead of success and happiness. It is that simple.

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