Safety warning after double farm tragedy

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Local farmers have been trying to come to terms with devastating losses, after two freak accidents left over 30 animals dead.

Just two days before Christmas, Larne farmer Sam Brennan and his son Alan made the shocking discovery that 14 in-calf cows from their dairy herd were lying dead in their cattle house.

Bizarrely, it emerged that the livestock had been 
electrocuted after a bolt of lightning struck the shed at some point during the previous night.

It is thought that the lightning strike triggered a massive electrical surge which then travelled through the shed’s automatic scraper system and was conducted on to the wet concrete floor.

Mercifully, many of the animals had been lying on rubber matts and survived unscathed. However, 14 of the cows – valued at up to £3000 each – were not so lucky.

Luckily for Alan, who was the first person to make the gruesome discovery when he entered the shed around 6am, the fuse box for the scrapers had been burned out by the time he arrived, meaning the floor was no longer electrified.

William Cross, senior agent at the Ulster Farmers’ Union Larne branch, said the strange incident should serve as a stark warning to other farmers.

He told the Times: “This was a terrible tragedy, but thankfully no human lives were lost.

“While the farmers are covered by their insurance and will receive compensation for their losses, it is still a big blow to them, as a lot of time and hard work has been lost.

“This may have been a freak occurrence, but to prevent it from happening again, I am calling on all farmers to ensure their sheds have earth connectors installed.”

Meanwhile, just over a week after the devastating event at the Brennan farm, a total of 17 bulls were drowned after falling into a slurry tank at a farm in the Cairncastle area.

It is understood that 19 animals had fallen into the tank, but two were pulled out alive by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

And Mr Cross praised the farmer for having the “presence of mind” to contact the emergency services, rather than risking his own life to save his livestock.

He added: “It is good to see the health and safety message associated with slurry tanks was adhered to in this instance.”

In 2012, three members of the same family lost their lives trying to rescue animals from a slurry tank in Hillsborough.