The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) recently carried out a mock inspection of the calving facilities on Tullamore Farm, finding that the facilities were excellent.

The Irish Farmers Journal accompanied HSA inspector Jason Murray and farm manager Shaun Diver on the inspection to highlight good farming practice at calving time.

Murray started in the passageway of the calving shed where in-calf and recently calved cows are on one side and the other side is devoted to individual calving pens – some in use and some freshly limed, full of straw and ready for use.

He started the inspection by asking Diver to talk through the process of calving cows on the farm.

“We try to turn cows out to this shed about a week before they calve, so as we see cows staring to spring down, they’re moved on to straw bedding here,” he said.

Diver added that this just gives them a chance to get used to the environment they’re in, so it’s not strange to them when they go to calve, they’re quite comfortable.

“If we see the cow calving we generally try to leave the cow to her own devices, not interfere if we can and let them naturally go through the calving process.

“We’ll move cows to the calving box, if the first signs of calving start. If we do come across a cow in a group setting where she’s already progressed through calving fairly well, we’ll just leave her alone until she has calved. In other circumstances, we try to get them out here an hour or two before the calving process really kicks in,” Diver explained.

Murray described the facilities as excellent, noting the functional calving gates which aid in physically restraining the cow.

He also highlighted how the calving gate doesn’t open fully and how it’s just a frame of the main gate which opens out –thus creating a barrier from a cow in the adjacent pen.


Murray said it is essential to ensure sufficient planning and preparation ahead of calving.

Diver was asked if he had access to help as calving progresses and fatigue levels usually increase. While students from agriculture colleges help in springtime, Murray stressed that students who are competent around suckler cows must be the ones coming.

Calving cameras, Diver explained, helped greatly with reducing fatigue.

“We’ve installed cameras in the shed here, which makes checking the cows in the middle of the night easy – you can check them from the phone and you don’t have to physically get out of bed and be here. If we didn’t have those cameras, we’d be to-ing and fro-ing to the yard a lot and not getting a lot of sleep.

“To be honest, I couldn’t calve 85 cows in such a compact season without a camera. It also means that I can monitor a cow from a distance.

“I could be here in the yard and have a cow calving, but I can actually look at the cow from another shed in the yard and I’m not coming in upsetting the cow.

“I only need to come in here if I think I need to interfere if she’s not progressing,” Diver said.

Calving equipment

Murray stressed the importance of having equipment such as calving jacks and ropes in a place where students or employees can put their hands on them and know where they are.

He also pointed to the fact that if, in the scenario, that cows calve in a group pen, it is important to have a physical barrier between yourself and the cow. This, he said, could even be a bale of straw or a ring feeder.


“One or two recommendations I might make – your calving facilities are perfect. But especially when you have students or employees coming in, make sure they have their mobile phones charged that if anything does go wrong they can ring you.

“Also, if someone makes you aware that they are going into the calving facilities and if time passes, and you don’t see them coming out, that you make sure to come over and check to make sure they’re OK,” Murray said.

Shaun Diver, farm manager, on Tullamore Farm, operating a calving gate. \ Odhran Ducie

Farm fatalities

  • One in five farm deaths are caused by livestock.
  • One third of deaths caused by livestock are from freshly calved cows.
  • Thirty-seven people have been killed by livestock in the last 10 years.
  • Nine of the fatalities in the last 10 years have been as a result of attacks with bulls.
  • Twenty-eight have been from cows with calves and other cattle.