Rob Lewis was left with a fractured spine after being attacked by a cow while feeding a calf. Here, he tells his story.
It’s a day that will be etched in my mind forever. It was 30 April last year.
I never thought when I was getting up that morning that within a couple of hours I’d be flown off to hospital by the Welsh air ambulance.
See also: Dying to Feed You: Read James’s story
I farm upland beef and sheep in the heart of mid-Wales with my wife, Audrey, and our three boys – Gethin, Rhys and Ieuan.
We have 60 suckler cows – mainly Limousin crosses and British Blue crosses.
It was just routine work. The cows were calving and this particular cow had calved that morning.
She had a touch of mastitis, so I had milked her out but I still wanted to give the calf some colostrum.
Watch the video and read the full report below.
You know yourself when there’s something not quite right. I’ve seen many cows calve, and fed many calves over the years.
Audrey had the milk in front of her and I was standing with the calf by me. Everything was normal – we’d done it countless times
The calf gave a little call out. And then another one. And with that, the cow hit me flying from behind – totally unknown to me.
Audrey managed to get out of the pen, but I was on the ground and totally at the mercy of the cow.
I couldn’t move. I knew I was in trouble. I thought the cow would hit me and then go back to her calf. But she didn’t. She kept on hitting me.
She was trying to turn me over with her legs – that’s all I could see. Feet, legs and hooves, attacking me.
At the same time, the cow was hitting me in the back with her head and pushing me around the pen like a rag doll.
Audrey screamed and my second son, Rhys, appeared and managed to knock the cow away from me.
He opened the gate and dragged me into the next pen where I was safe from the cow attacking me.
If I had been on my own, I’m not sure I would be here today. She wouldn’t have given up until I was dead.
I was badly winded, but I was conscious. I wanted to lie there for however long it took for me to get up.
But Audrey dialled 999 – and, with that, the air ambulance was circling around the building and they whisked me to hospital in Cardiff in 24 minutes.
I was taken to the spinal injuries unit. I had five fractures to one vertebrae and compressions on my spine.
I was very, very lucky – another quarter of an inch and it would have been severed, and I would have been in a wheelchair at least.
The guys from the physio department ascertained there was no other internal injuries, so I was extremely fortunate I didn’t come off worse than I did.
But I have had to wear a brace and there will always be a weakness there.
We hear about so many accidents, but you don’t think it’ll happen to you.
When you’re on a farm, you can’t switch off at any time. It would only have taken a few minutes to take the calf out the pen to feed it.
I should have assessed the situation before I went into it – especially with a newly calved cow.
My message is to be mindful of what is around you. I should have made sure there was a proper exit route – or preferably two.
Look at the safety aspect first. There is always risk in every walk of life, but in farming and agriculture there are more risks than almost any other profession.
The accident rate is too high – we have to address it.
How to prevent accidents during calving
Oliver Dale, managing director at Safety Revolution, says: “Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence, particularly with the continental breeds.”
- If it does not feel right, it’s probably not safe – stop and review the options
- Never work alone
- If you have to work with a cow and calf, ensure the cow is restrained or segregated
- Make sure your co-worker knows what to do
- Have a refuge/means of escape that you can use quickly and easily, where the cow can’t get to
- If a specific animal is aggressive or has form for aggression, cull it – don’t pass it on to others
- Prevention is the goal. Make sure the team’s first-aid training is appropriate to the type of injury that could occur – first-aid training for minor cuts is no use for a spinal injury
Dying to Feed You
About the campaign
Farming has the highest number of workplace fatalities of all occupations. Farmers Weekly is pledging to use its voice, influence and reach to reduce the accident rate in agriculture.
Find out how you can be a part of helping us change agriculture’s safety record at fwi.co.uk/dying-to-feed-you
The team at Safety Revolution are delighted to be working with Farmers Weekly to reduce deaths in agriculture and to show how we can work together to create safer farms.
Building strong and positive safety cultures delivers happy and safe teams, fewer incidents and improved productivity. We look forward to exploring individual case studies and shining a light