A farmer has been crushed to death by bull calves after attempting to move them from one field to another. Alan Vague, from St Issey, Cornwall, was discovered fatally injured in the gateway of the field by his wife Margaret, an inquest heard. The 76-year-old had suffered serious chest injuries and fell unconscious. An investigator said one of the bull calves was known to be more boisterious and aggressive than the other four calves he had been moving that afternoon.
An air ambulance flew to the scene, but Alan died on his Lower Tredore farm in June, 2022. An inquest at Cornwall Coroner’s Court in Truro heard that a post-mortem examination concluded that Alan had died from a chest injury.
His wife of 53 years said they owned the 158-acre farm where they had 19 pedigree cattle, 74 bullocks, 30 cows and 140 sheep.
Margaret Vague said her husband was “never happier than when he was busy on the farm” and described his death as “tragic and untimely.”
She said after a late lunch Alan had gone to the top field to “turn out the bulls” to move them to fresh pasture. She became worried when he did not return for his dinner and there was no answer on his mobile phone.
She searched for him and went to the top field – with the cattle walking away as she approached. She tragically found her husband lying on the ground with one boot on and one boot off.
“He did not speak. He was clearly in distress. He had a major injury to his face. He reached and picked up his phone and unlocked it and he tried to say something. He could not get the words out,” said the mother-of-three who first met him when he was showing cattle at the Royal Cornwall showground.
She said he tried to pull himself up using the gate bars but fell unconscious. An air ambulance arrived within 10 minutes but the crew was unable to revive him.
Health and Safety Executive inspector Simon Jones investigated the death. He said Alan had been leading five bull calves, aged between eight and 10 months, to fresh pasture in another field.
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He said the Vagues ran “an excellent farm with very high standards of cattle handling and animal welfare”. He said the Hereford pedigree bull calves weighed between 350 and 450 kilograms.
Mr Jones said the Hereford breed has a docile temperament and is less troublesome to handle. He said normally Alan would carry a stick with him to guide the animals but on this day he did not have it with him.
He said Alan was an experienced livestock farmer and was crushed by one or more of the bull calves. Mr Jones said: “The cattle would have been excited about going to the fresh pasture and the pinch point would be the gate going into the field.”
Det Con Mark Jenkin, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said there were no suspicious circumstances and he was unaware of any injuries to the animals. Senior Cornwall coroner Andrew Cox said the bull calves were “large beasts” and one had been hand reared and was potentially more boisterous than the others. The inquest jury recorded an accidental death conclusion.