A farmer was crushed to death by calves after trying to move them from one field to another. Alan Vague, from St Issey, Cornwall, was discovered fatally wounded at the gate of the field by his wife Margaret, an inquest has heard. The 76-year-old man had sustained severe chest injuries and fell unconscious. One researcher said one of the male calves was known to be more boisterous and aggressive than the other four calves he had been moving that afternoon.
An air ambulance flew to the scene, but Alan died at his Lower Tredore farm in June 2022. An inquest at the Cornwall Coroner’s Court in Truro heard that a post-mortem examination concluded that Alan had died of a chest injury. .
His wife of 53 years said they owned the 158-acre farm where they kept 19 head of cattle, 74 oxen, 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 that after a late lunch, Alan had gone to the upper field to “bring out the bulls” to fresh pastures. She was concerned when he didn’t come back for dinner and there was no answer on her cell phone.
She sought him out and went to the upper field, the cattle receding as she approached. Tragically, she found her husband lying on the ground with one boot on and one without.
“He didn’t speak. He was clearly distraught. He had a significant injury to his face. He reached over and took his phone, unlocked it and tried to say something. He couldn’t get the words out,” the mother said. -of-three who first met him when he was showing cattle at the Royal Cornwall Showground.
She said she tried to get up using the bars on the door, but fell unconscious. An air ambulance arrived within 10 minutes, but the crew was unable to revive him.
Executive Health and Safety Inspector Simon Jones investigated the death. He said Alan had been driving five calves, aged between eight and 10 months, to fresh pasture in another field.
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He said the Vagues had “an excellent farm with very high standards of livestock management and animal welfare.” He said pedigree Hereford bull calves weighed between 350 and 450 kilograms.
Jones said the Hereford breed has a docile temperament and is less of a problem to handle. She said that normally Alan would carry a stick with him to guide the animals, but he didn’t have one with him that day.
He said that Alan was an experienced rancher and was crushed by one or more of the calves. Mr Jones said: “Cattle would have been excited to go out on fresh pasture and the critical point would be the gate going into the field.”
Detective Mark Jenkin, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said there were no suspicious circumstances and he was not aware of any injuries to the animals. Cornwall’s Senior Coroner Andrew Cox said the calves were “big beasts” and one had been hand-raised and was potentially more boisterous than the others. The grand jury entered a finding of accidental death.