Meet Ryan

If you have undertaken our ‘Introduction to Farm Safety’ session recently, you will need no introduction to Ryan Taggart…

A long-standing ambassador, Ryan wanted to become a 10th Anniversary Champion to help spread awareness across the industry of how easily something can go wrong. “If I can let people hear my story, what’s happened, how easy it is for something to go wrong, and how it can affect you, then maybe people will start thinking more about how to keep themselves safe on farm,” he explains.

Ryan was raised in rural Northern Ireland and spent a lot of time on his uncle’s dairy farm. As he approached his GCSE year, he was definite in that a career in farming lay ahead for him. Like many in Northern Ireland, Ryan attended CAFRE; studying at the Greenmount Campus. He had high hopes of incorporating a placement year in his studies and the future looked bright. However, this was 2019 and the pandemic was just around the corner.

“My time at Greenmount was really hampered by COVID,” explains Ryan. “I was supposed to do a year of the course, then have a placement in England, and then back to Greenmount to finish my studies. I did manage to take up the placement, but decided I wanted to stay there and didn’t go back.”

Having completed the initial year working on a dairy farm in Market Drayton, in 2021 Ryan moved to join an arable business in Shropshire.

“I’d really only been there three months when I had the accident,” he continues. “It was just a normal day, I took the tractor to the field and started sub-soiling. About mid-afternoon there was a bit of worn metal and I thought a shoe needed changing. I took the roll pin out and was going to change it but the shoe was a bit stiff, so I gave it a hit with the hammer. The next thing I knew, a bit of metal had fragmented off the shoe and went straight into my eye.

The metal punctured the first couple of layers of my eye and bounced off my retina, scarring it. If it had gone further through my retina, I would have had to have had my eye taken out.

While Ryan considers himself lucky not to have lost his eye, the accident has resulted in the loss of sight in his right eye.

“One of the things I was very grateful for was that, even after this happened, my job was never in any doubt,” he explains. “I’m aware other employers may not have been as happy to keep me on. These days, where you’re driving 20 tonne trailers, it’s not as easy when you’re half blind!”

Today, Ryan has adapted remarkably to only having sight in one eye. “The brain is really amazing,” he explains. “As weird as it sounds, I honestly forget that I’m blind in that eye sometimes. Although I do have to take eye drops every day now.

“I’m used to my own tractor and machines, so I’ve not really had to make adjustments in the cab but, if I had to get into a new tractor and didn’t know it, I’d have to actually turn to look for the controls, as I can’t see out of the right-hand side.”

Ryan has also noticed he has become more sensitive to light. “My bad eye is a lot more sensitive to light, but I would also say, in general, light affects me a lot more than it used to. I wear sunglasses a lot more often now.

“I’m pretty good at most things now, but there are still times when I’m reaching for something and don’t quite get it.”

Last year, Ryan was given the opportunity to farm alongside his uncle and returned home where he now milks 90 cows in an intensive, grass-based system. But the accident has helped give a new perspective: “I don’t have a second chance now,” he says. “I probably see life a bit differently now, and don’t take things for granted.

“Generally, agriculture isn’t the best when it comes to health and safety, but there are little things we can do to stay safe. I was hoof-trimming the cows the other day and I now make sure I’m wearing goggles for that, but you still see people out trimming who aren’t wearing them.”

stephanie_berkeley_zl4u2oa9Meet Ryan

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