Bring Back the Midden
Bring back the old-fashioned smelly farmyard ‘middens’ as the only solution to the slurry slaughter saga.
According to figures from the North’s Health and Safety Executive, some 40 people have been killed in farm accidents over a recent five-year period. That’s 40 too many.
It is creating an atmosphere of fear about visiting a farm as the traditional farmyard becomes as dangerous as a building site, even a battlefield.
This is having a disastrous knock-on effect on education as a generation of student is being churned out that has never set foot on a farm.
Many ‘townies’ prefer the safety of the urban environments and won’t even venture into rural heartlands to sample the delights of Ireland’s rich countryside.
While there is no hierarchy of victims among these 40-odd farm fatalities, media coverage has highlighted a number of very tragic cases – and they all involve slurry tanks which contain legal gases which can knock a person out in seconds.
In 2012, Ulster rugby ace Nevin Spence (22) died with his dad and brother at the family farm in Hillsborough, Co Down, as each rescue bid rendered the person unconscious.
And this month, eight-year-old Robert Christie from Dunloy in Co Antrim died in a similar slurry pit disaster.
I grew up in a farming congregation where my dad was the local Presbyterian minister, so hardly a week went by during his ministry that I wasn’t visiting a farmer.
In those days, ‘mucking out the byre’ was a daily ritual. The ‘cow clap’, as the manure was affectionately known, was shovelled into a wheel barrow and taken to an open site in the fresh air – called the ‘midden’ – where it was dumped.
There were no enclosed slurry tanks or pits in those days. The manure would be loaded into the ‘muck spreaders’ and this would be put on the fields. Fresh air was the key to the success of this task.
Perhaps our proud agricultural industry has become too technical and mechanised since those muscle-building days of ‘mucking out the byres’?
Credit must be given to groups, such as the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, and Rural Youth Europe, for their respective campaigns to improve farm safety. But people are still dying.
As the death toll from farm accidents – and particularly those relating to slurry – continues to creep up, there is the real danger future generations will leave the industry, and farmyards will become ‘no go areas’ for visitors.
The time has come for Shinner Stormont farming minister Michelle O’Neill to put down her foot and ban these slurry tanks and pits and implement a return to the traditional farm open air ‘middens’.
Time and money, I hear people scream! If only one child or farmer is saved by the ‘midden’ return, it will have been cash well spent.
Grants should be made available to farmers to re-introduce the ‘middens’.
And the farm tourism industry will also be boosted by such a move. Historical and open farms have become a popular and money-spinning way of generating extra dosh for our hard-pressed farmers.
But the tragic deaths of young folk like Robert and Nevin could fuel a stereotype that such farms should be ignored ‘just in case there is a wee accident’.
Highly popular programmes, such as Shaun the Sheep, about the fun of the farm will becoming mocking comedies if Stormont cannot bring a halt to the ‘slurry slaughter saga.’
And the issue cannot be simply dismissed as ‘a country yokel’ problem.
As an island, we all need to ensure our farms remain in existence, because if we can’t ‘buy local in Ireland’, think of the health and cost nightmares we face with imported foods.
We need to get back to the mind-set where ‘a day on the farm’ is once more viewed as a very enjoyable experience – for townies and culchies alike.
I've never heard of 'the midden' and if bringing it back saves one life then it's money well spent.ReplyDelete
What price is three score and ten..10k per year, 20k-50k?
Definitely a need for ventilation in those slurry tank buildings. Insane going into those things.ReplyDelete
What's your suggestion to prevent more people dying in slurry pits?
Whats wrong with going back to basics? Surely if something isn't broke, why fix it?
Frankie - I haven't the technological/farming/scientific background to propose a solution to slurry deaths.ReplyDelete
I presume slurry pits were created as a solution to midden-related problems, whatever they were.
But the slurry pit itself is beset with dangers.
Rather than reverting back to the same old, same old, people with the know-how should be working towards developing a safe alternative.
We don't have the experience that JC has. And until a solution is found his idea seems like a goer..
‘mucking out the byre’ was a daily ritual. The ‘cow clap’, as the manure was affectionately known, was shovelled into a wheel barrow and taken to an open site in the fresh air – called the ‘midden’ – where it was dumped. There were no enclosed slurry tanks or pits in those days. The manure would be loaded into the ‘muck spreaders’ and this would be put on the fields. Fresh air was the key to the success of this task. Perhaps our proud agricultural industry has become too technical and mechanised since those muscle-building days of ‘mucking out the byres’?
It might be back breaking smelly work but how many of the 40 lives lost over the past 5yrs would have been saved?
Frankie - most people don't like doing backbreaking smelly work day in, day out. Why condemn them to it when we (the govt) could get some scientists or engineers to apply their trained minds to the job of improving safety?ReplyDelete
Just off the top of my head - couldn't some sort of alarm system be fitted - loud noise, flashing lights - automatic locks so the door in doesn't open - to prevent access during the danger time?
No one likes doing back breaking smelly work day in day out. But someone has to do it. Take bar work. It's back breaking and ball breaking. And the toilets are more often than not very smelly after people shitting & pissing in the wrong places.
Construction workers..They have one of the hardest jobs around and build in all sorts of conditions.
Could some bright spark come up with a safety mechanism to prevent un-necessary death's at slurry pits. I've no doubt in my mind they could. But until that someone does up with the 'idea' then I say go back to basics..
Should probably be drained into containers for methane and pumped into dung spreaders as required for the fields.ReplyDelete
frankie - see larry already has another idea without reverting back to middens!ReplyDelete
about bar workers - the smelly toilet problem is avoided by a staff only toilet, the back breaking working of hauling crates of bottles and kegs of beer from storeroom to bar area can be avoided by use of appropriate trolleys and ramps if there are steps in the way. Bar workers should be talking to their trades Union reps - that's what members pay their sub for - better working conditions and pay.
Same for the many problems construction workers have.I'm sure a lot could be overcome with intelligence-linked solutions, which are not necessarily very costly, that are put forward by the workers who know what's making work harder for them, and negotiated by their Unions,
Maybe this (part of) should be up to larry to flesh out..but (there is nearly always a but), Larry said the cow clap should be drained into containers (like slurry pits???).
the smelly toilet problem is avoided by a staff only toilet,
Where do the customers piss & shit? On the floor of the bar or café down the road. They are ones who make the mess not the staff and it's generally bar staff who have to unblock toilets, mop up piss and wash down the vomit. It's called an occupational hazard. Maybe bars need a midden /slurry pit for their beer gardens. The bar unions you talk about fighting for better conditions for bar staff and safer conditions.. I've yet to come across a union who helps... Even industrial tribunals take years to hear cases.
Same for the many problems construction workers have.I'm sure a lot could be overcome with intelligence-linked solutions,
Today there is..called 3D printing and I'm sure that one day buildings will be built using 3D printers. But at the minute the way most homes are built is by spreading muck onto brick and cementing one to the other with a hoddy carrying a load on his back.
I've seen programmes on tv about chicken shit being used for heating purposes among other things. Just wondering could there not be some industrial scale procedure for positive usage of cattle waste? Farmers are penny wise but not always in a positive manner. I worked in a Farm By-products factory before making bone meal where we skinned dead cattle brought in from the fields. It was a famers co-operative and essentially someone had the brainwave of gathering up dead livestock from around the north with a fleet of flat bed trucks and recycle them into the food chain. As Ollie North might have said a 'neat-plan'. Only it wasn't it was criminal. Cattle are herbivores and cannibalising them for decades by feeding them meal made from dead cattle with the odd dog and cat from vets or an occasional zebra from the zoo wasn't natural or ethical. Cows began coming in 'drunk' unable to stand in the early 1980s. BSA as we all now know.ReplyDelete
So, something should maybe be done by the farmers in relation to their slurry pits, like spend some MONEY on ventilation!
frankie - sorry I was not clear about the bar toilet business. I meant to say a separate staff only toilet.ReplyDelete
It's the customers who mess up the toilets. Not the staff. The staff toilets are clean.
The reason why no one has converted cow clap into re-newable energy is it's not cost effective at the moment.
Maybe cow-clap isn't potent enough like chicken-shit to make it a viable option. Who knows. But another person was hospitalised I see from a slurry pit. They need to punch holes in the walls I think.ReplyDelete