Experience is the wisest teacher

By Gerald Ford

Chainsaws, quads and mad bulls are three of the biggest hazards on farms, reckons 60-year-old Mauriceville sheep-and-beef farmer Alan Stuart.

Stuart was once chainsawing through a large log and slipped, falling with his stomach across the blade - which, fortunately, was no longer turning.

Wearing chaps has "saved my legs a couple of times", says Stuart, who adds he has also had a couple of run-ins with the springy wood of the macrocarpa, which can move in unexpected directions when cut.

On a quad bike there are so many factors that can contribute to a crash, he says.

"There's the emotional side when the unpredictable happens, the dogs are not working, or the stock are being a bit clever.

"There's the weather, if you've got driving rain reducing visibility - even if you're just observing livestock."

A suddenly slippery patch of clover from recent rain can also be the cause of losing control.

"Or you're mustering ewes and lambs, and the dogs are a bit buggered; the sheep make a break for it and there's no way you want to let them get away ... and suddenly, there's that bloody hole you were thinking about before.

"You can say 'stop and count to three', but when you risk losing half a day's mustering ... there's a degree of inevitability to most accidents."

Bulls can "be a bit unpredictable at times" and Stuart knows of farmers gored or crushed in the yards, but has managed to avoid injury himself.

"It's about knowing your stock," he says.

Experience is the best teacher, says Stuart, and learning to slow down on the quad and keep to the track unless absolutely necessary are among the tricks he's picked up over the years.

Farmers can learn from courses and experience and take safety precautions, but he says accidents will still happen every now and then, "out of the blue".

"It's the unpredictable that catches you out," he said.

"You're never, ever going to get accident-free farms; there are so many unpredictables, so many random variables."

- Hamilton News

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