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Preparing Your Farm for Winter: 5 common seasonal risks and how to be ready for them

As the harvest seasons draw to a close and the weather turns colder, farmers across the country are beginning to prepare for the winter season. In the agriculture industry, this can be a dangerous time. According to the Farm Injury Resource Center, the number of accidents and fatalities rise by 17% in the winter months.

Freezing temperatures, shortened days and threats of storms can wreak havoc on equipment, livestock and even your workers. Preparing your operation for winter and the risks common to the season is essential to setting yourself up for success in the spring.

Winter Storms

When severe winter weather sets in, farmers can’t afford to take a snow day. Blizzards and freezing temperatures pose a large threat to your infrastructure, livestock and equipment.

The best way to prepare for a winter storm is to create an action plan and a preparedness kit. This gives you a head start when severe weather is forecasted. Your plan should include an inspection of all farm structures in the fall to avoid building collapse. Know where your animals will stay during a storm, and set aside extra bedding and food stores. Consider investing in a generator for backup power in case of an outage.

Equipment Damage

Successfully storing tractors and other machinery for the winter is the best way to prepare for the coming spring months. Failure to protect equipment from cold temperatures and damp conditions can cause a major setback when the temperature finally rises and the cost of repairs can be steep.

The end of fall is the perfect time to inspect equipment and make any necessary repairs. Before storing any machinery, look through the operator’s manual for winterizing recommendations, change the oil and clean out planters, drills and air seeders. Whenever possible, store machinery indoors. If you don’t have access to a shed, make sure your equipment is covered and protected from the elements.

Livestock Mortality

Winter can be tough on livestock. Freezing temperatures, wind and ice can cause accidents, disease and, ultimately, death. The best way to protect your herd is to prepare early and build up stores of food and bedding.

Setting aside enough food for your livestock over the winter is crucial. As temperatures decrease, food consumption should increase. Provide shelter from wind, and manage exposure to wet or damp conditions. Ensure all water sources are thawed and accessible and keep an eye on the smallest members of your herd.

Personal Injury and Sickness

Livestock aren’t the only ones at risk during the winter. Sickness and hypothermia pose a real threat to your well-being and the well-being of your employees. Make sure you and your workers have proper cold-weather gear to work outside in freezing conditions and know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite, such as shivering, exhaustion, confusion, numbness and discolored skin.

Fire Damage

After a long winter day on the farm, nothing beats warming up next to the fireplace. However, this creature comfort can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t manage your chimney and/or wood burning stove correctly.

Home Advisor suggests having your wood burning stove or chimney inspected at least once each year by a professional to protect against chimney fires. Scheduling an inspection in the fall will ensure your chimney or wood stove are ready for the cold months ahead. Always be aware of the fuel limitations of your stove and avoid burning driftwood, trash or treated wood. Build small, hot fires and install a stack thermometer on the stove flue to monitor the gases leaving the stove.

Knowing common winter risks can help you prepare for the season. For added peace of mind, check out James Allen Insurance’s wide variety of agriculture policies built to fit your unique needs.

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