Farming ‘a tough game’ says Steve

February 4th, 2021 10:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

Speakers at last week’s Carbery webinar on wellness, motivation and safety – from left – Teagasc health and safety specialist Dr John G McNamara, sports physiotherapist Rena Buckley, motivational speaker Steve Redmond and Carbery Group CEO Jason Hawkins.

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EMBRACE uncertainty with the knowledge you can succeed and go farther than you think.

That was the advice shared by Ballydehob based endurance swimmer Steve Redmond when he addressed a recent Carbery webinar on wellness, motivation and safety. Steve (55) is the only person to complete the 40km swim from Baltimore Harbour to the Fastnet Rock lighthouse, a feat he achieved last summer spending 15 hours 35 minutes in the water. He’s also the first person in the world to complete the Oceans Seven marathon swimming challenge.

He drew comparisons between his lifestyle and that of farmers. He said farmers often work alone for 18 hours a day, which is as long as one of his night swims.

‘The real battle is always yourself,’ he said. He acknowledged it was a ‘tough game,’ and key to success, like in endurance swimming, was asking for help.

‘Don’t be waiting for someone to come. The greatest problem with us all is that we’re afraid to ask for help. There is such expertise there now, people wanting you to succeed, both in the co-ops and Carbery.’

Also crucial, he said, was forgetting the idea of controlling everything, doing it all yourself, and being adaptable to change.

‘I realised that I couldn’t organise the boats, the finances, that all I could do was the swimming. Farming is like that. Surround yourself with a great team, you might be isolated a lot of the time, but find people you can work with, solution based people, and you’ll go farther than you think.

‘Every time I’ve failed, and I fail a lot, it was because I didn’t change. I thought I was right, this was the way to do it, and I got beaten. I started again and went back to my team, family, friends, co-workers, everybody is involved.’

Every time he failed with his Fastnet challenge he sat down to see where he was going wrong and admitted there had to a certain madness involved, given every attempt cost €1,500 and nobody though it could be done.

But he said there are now 25 people waiting to come and swim Fastnet which was opening up as a world standard swim.

The farming community, he added, was willing to embrace uncertainty, embrace the rogue wave that’s coming and take things farther. And he said Carbery was pushing harder than anyone to be at the forefront and to change how things are done.

Carbery CEO Jason Hawkins addressed the webinar and painted a picture of stability for the group facing into 2021.

Brexit uncertainty has been resolved to some degree and he said they were in a good position to handle growth in global milk supply which is predicted at 1.2-1.5% this year.

Growth in demand, he said, was at 1.5%, but was obviously dependant on Covid-19, and factors including the reopening of the service industry.

With regards to derogation, he said it was important for all stakeholders to remain proactive and for everyone to remain engaged.

‘But it can’t be top down, it has to start with farmer engagement, they know better than everyone what has to happen, as well as the challenges. Everyone has to roll their sleeves up on this one,’ he said.

Also addressing the webinar was Macroom physiotherapist and Cork GAA star Rena Buckley who said farmers’ perception of their physical activity is often very different to actual levels and it was important for them to be honest with themselves for the sake of their health.

Dr John G McNamara, health and safety specialist with Teagasc, pointed out there were 19 deaths in farms last year, six of which were in Cork county. According to national statistics he said that 19% of dairy farmers had accidents in the previous five years. He cited intense workloads, and business as being some of the reasons for this.

Cow attacks have increased dramatically in last five to 10 years, while bull attacks have decreased and he said that while power shaft fatalities have reduced they’ll never go away. He also pointed out that facilities around cow calving had not moved on with the increase in dairy cow numbers, which was something to be addressed.

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