As I’ve gotten older I take farm safety a bit more seriously. Becoming a father has also made me more aware of the importance of taking precautions and changing habits.
Proper Set Up
The Labor Day incident involved cutting bulls. At the time I did not have a squeeze chute. I just had a head catch at the end of an alley. I had to climb over the alley fence and get in behind the bull. I had a friend there helping me, which is out of the norm for me. After I cut the bull he fired off one good shot with his hind foot and hit me right in the eye. I had protective sun glasses on and they cut into the side of my face, just a fraction of an inch from the corner of my eye removing a chunk of flesh. It was a real challenge for the doctor to stitch it back together. The hole in my head got infected, and when I’d wake up in the morning I’d have a bump bigger than a golf ball that I had to drain daily. The doc told me he thought the sun glasses may have saved my eye. This has made me an advocate for protective eye wear that matches the task you are doing.
The take away from this example is I did not have the proper set up for cutting bulls. Even though it meant I was leaving some profit behind I quit buying cutting bulls until I purchased a squeeze chute. It was one of the better purchases I’ve ever made, given how many cattle I run through it in a year. Its hard to justify risking your health because you are cheap like I was. I might add, that at the time this happened there was no rescue unit service in the near by town because some political muscle flexing shut it down.
Years ago I put in a retrofitted version of a Bud Box onto my facilities. This allows the cattle to flow nicely into my alley, and I can do it without having to get in with them.
The worst bumps I’ve ever taken have been while working with other people. I almost flat refuse to have anyone around while working cattle anymore. For the longest time I could never figure out why it always went better while I was by myself. Then last month it hit me, I am having to deal with the pressure they are putting on the cattle.
One day while loading cattle out, the driver was in the corral with me. In typical trucker fashion he reached up and zapped one with his hot shot. She kicked me square in the groin at full stroke. Having been a bull rider for years I know how badly dewclaws can mess a guy up. I’m not joking when I tell you that it went numb quickly and I felt blood running down my leg. I had to check to make sure things were still there. Problem later on was the bruising and swelling. I had to psych myself up to endure the pain just to take a leak.
Now I clearly communicate to my drivers exactly where I want them to stand and what I expect of them. If they move from that spot or do something out of turn, I just stop. At these moments, time is not money, if it keeps a guy from going to the ER.
Take Charge of Your Area
Years ago I was messing around with some recip cows. I was running them through to synch them one day. Now I’m one of those guys who knows how I left things. One day my mom, for some reason picked up the bars I place in the alley to keep the cows from backing up, and placed them vertically along the alley fence. I kinda spaced that out. I placed a bar behind one cow and in front of another. When the lead cow moved forward the cow in back lunged forward too. She pushed the bar in the alley forward and into one of the bars my mom placed along the fence. That bar slammed into my forehead with all her weight and force behind it. The last thought I recall going through my mind was “Don’t hit the ground or you’ll die”. I came to over at the water hydrant some time later. I’m not sure how I got there or how long I was there. Looking at the blood trail I didn’t walk very straight. I felt fine and went back to finish up. I lost control of my hands and jabbed a needle through one of my hands when I missed the bottle I was trying to draw from.
From then on, I get upset if someone messes with anything around my working facilities. Thing is, it is my responsibility to take a look around and make sure everything is in its place. So now I just do a quick walk through before I bring the cattle up. Again, time is not money in this instance.
Habits, we all got them, good and bad. I kinda have a system to make sure things are in a certain place. Take my branding iron for example. It’s an electric one so I make sure it’s in a metal bucket while processing cattle. Otherwise I know I’d bump into it, trip and fall on it or something.
I now have a place for everything when processing cattle. This is especially important for me since I’m ambidextrous. I might perform a task with my left hand, and set it a certain way only to place it differently when I use it with my right. One day this ended up with me getting a scalpel buried into my under arm.
I know a guy who was forced to sell off all his cows a few years back. He was feeding them a round bale. He had it up in the air and walked under it to open a gate when the loader gave out and it all came down on him. He was crushed under it and was pinned there in the mud and cold for hours before someone missed him and went looking. I am still guilty of doing this. I try to always remember to walk all the way around it.
One good habit I do have is to never mess around with a PTO. I was at a youth ag leadership conference once and they spent some time there on farm safety. They showed us a slide of a boy who stepped over a PTO while it was running and he got caught in it. The slide showed his testicle sitting on his leg, after his scrotum had been ripped off. Might seem a bit to graphic for some, but hey, it made its desired impression on me.
Last year my dad’s combine caught on fire. It went up pretty fast so a fire extinguisher would have been no use. Thing is after that day, I have a whole new appreciation for those things.
And lastly, as more and more people in this country seem to be popping some kind of pill, I would suggest making a list of the meds you are on and keeping that list on you. That’s good info for medical responders to have.
Just remember, sometimes time is not money and keep yourselves safe out there.