By Tom Collins
SOUTH STORMONT — Dairy farmer Allan Winters was just expanding into milking goats two years ago when part of his right leg had to be amputated due to a farm accident.
Winters, who farms at South Stormont, was standing next to his spreader on May 19, 2017 when he took his eyes off the machine for a minute. The spreader fell off its jack onto his foot. A farm co-op student, who was walking close by when the accident occurred, grabbed a skid loader to lift the spreader off Winters’ foot. Winters was rushed to the hospital.
At first, doctors tried to save Winters’ foot, but the circulation didn’t properly return, so the doctors had to perform a partial foot amputation, leaving the heel and ankle. Winters was in the hospital for a month, but before leaving, doctors did one last X-ray. A week later, he was back in his doctor’s office. A specialist had looked at the X-ray and determined Winters would have problems with his leg down the road. The solution was a below-the-knee amputation.
At the time, Winters was milking about 40 cows and was just started milking goats. The cows went to a neighbour who milked the herd for Winters. The neighbour eventually bought the herd in April 2018.
“We intended on getting out of cows eventually: (the accident) just speeded the process up,” said Winters, who now uses a prosthetic leg to get around.
Winters now milks about 150 goats and has a herd of about 400, but needed to make some changes to the barn. That’s where the Back to Ag program through the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) came in. The program is designed to help fund new equipment for farmers who have gone through a life-altering injury that resulted in a disability.
Winters worked with CASA executive director Marcel Hacault to come up with workable solutions for his barn and the changes were installed this past winter. Those changes included buying two bale wagons that Winters can pull to move hay for easier feeding, a new ramp to get up to the milker (the old ramp was foldable but had no railings and Winters had trouble going down the ramp), and adding a non-slip coating on the floor as the floor used to get slick when wet.
Has Winters made any other changes to his farming habits? “Stay away from a spreader,” he laughed.
The Canada-wide Back to Ag program averages about four cases a year, but CASA could help more farmers if more applied, said Hacault. There is no deadline to apply for the Back to Ag program and there is a $15,000 limit per person. The money is funded by Farm Credit Canada.
Hacault said most cases involve amputation or back injuries, but stressed the program is for those who have suffered a traumatic injury that results in a disability. Someone who has problems farming due to a degenerative disease or overuse of their body does not qualify.
To apply for the Back to Ag program, visit www.casa-acsa.ca/en/grants/back-to-ag-program or call CASA at 1-877-452-2272.
Money available for disabled farmers through CASA’s national Back to Ag program
By Tom Collins