Top tips on farm safety in the hot weather
The recent spell of hot weather has created a lot of issues for farmers. FBD Insurance has put together a list of tips and measures to prevent fires and keep animals safe during the extreme weather conditions.
Machinery fire prevention
There are two key areas to focus on when it comes to preventing serious machinery fires. These are:
- Preparation in case a fire does break out.
For a fire to occur, three things must be present: air, a material to burn and a heat source. Since it is impossible to eliminate air around a farm machine, we must focus on keeping the machine clean of possible fire-causing materials and eliminating all possible sources of heat that could lead to a fire.
Cleanliness and maintenance
Pay special attention to the engine and engine compartments; about 75% of all machinery fires start in that area. Use a pressure washer to remove all caked-on grease, oil, and crop residue.
A clean engine will run cooler, operate more efficiently and greatly reduce the chance of fire.
After starting the season, make sure you frequently blow any dry chaff, leaves and other material off the machine with compressed air. Also, clear off any wrapped plant materials on bearings, belts and other moving parts.
Eliminate heat sources
Heavy plant and tractor fires can be caused by several heat sources. The most common is exhaust system surfaces that contact any flammable material.
When checking your oil and performing other daily maintenance, quickly scan any exposed electrical wiring for damage or signs of deterioration and replace any worn or malfunctioning electrical components with proper parts from your dealer.
What if I have a fire?
If a fire does break out on a machine you’re operating, quickly shut off the engine, grab your extinguisher, get out and call the emergency services.
If you forget to grab the extinguisher, don’t go back in after it. Approach any fire with extreme caution; even a small fire can flare up.
- Keep machinery clean and free of combustible materials, particularly engine compartments where machinery fires often start;
- Make sure certain exhaust systems – including manifolds, mufflers and turbochargers – are free of leaks and in good working order;
- Follow instructions when installing and operating farm machinery and follow maintenance schedules;
- Replace worn electrical components, bearings, belts or chains;
- Keep appropriate fully charged fire extinguishers on tractors, combines and nearly all farm machinery;
- Welders and cutting torches should only be used in clean areas, at least 35ft away from any flammable and combustible materials; welding curtains should be used;
- Store vehicles and machinery – which present special hazards – in buildings separate from those used for other purposes.
Pig farms should complete summer checklists. These should be prepared for the extended periods of heat that will come as summer continues.
As temperatures rise, we know that ventilation rates need to increase accordingly, but they also need to increase as pigs get larger.
Most farms with automatic generators have them set to run at specific times to make sure they are working. However, during the summer months, it’s a good idea to check your generator (automatic or portable) more frequently to make sure it’s working.
Furthermore, for smaller pigs, that response time can be an hour. At the same time, CO2 levels will begin to increase as ventilation rates diminish and pigs’ access to fresh oxygen is reduced.
Often, after hot weather, lightning strikes can occur in close humid conditions. Contact your ventilation systems service provider to check systems are operating correctly and carry out any remedial work required.
The key to operating any ventilation system is understanding how it works. In addition, a good maintenance program of cleaning and adjusting and monitoring controls will maintain system efficiency.
Fans in any ventilation system should be cleaned and lubricated frequently and all equipment checked by the service provider to ensure it is working properly.
Again – in the poultry sector – most intensive sheds are now climate controlled. A backup power supply or alternative ventilation system, with an alarm system warning of temperature or power problems, must be available at all times to ensure the environment in these sheds can be maintained at an appropriate level.
Managing animals during hot weather can be difficult; FBD Insurance has the following tips for farmers.
The provision of a plentiful supply of clean, cool water and shade is essential. Water troughs or containers should be large enough and designed in such a way that all animals have easy access.
Grass levels can decrease during long dry spells. Farmers should ensure that perimeter fencing is well maintained to minimise the risk of cattle breaking out onto public roads.
Supplementary feeding measures should be introduced as required. Heat stress tolerances can also vary between and within a species.
- Pigs become heat stressed at a lower temperature level and are very prone to sunburn;
- Sheep that are newly shorn are at risk of sunburn;
- High-producing dairy cows are more effected by extreme heat than lower producing cows;
- Lactating cattle are more susceptible than dry cows because of the additional metabolic heat generated during lactation;
- Beef cattle with black hair suffer more from direct solar radiation than those with lighter hair; cattle with pink skin are at risk of sunburn;
- Holsteins are less tolerant than Jersey cows;
- British breeds of sheep and cattle are less tolerant than merino or tropical beef breeds;
- Heavy cattle – weighing over 450kg – are more susceptible than lighter ones;
- Cattle, alpacas and llamas are more prone to heat stress than sheep and goats.
Remember: The most important thing you can do for your animals in hot weather is to provide them with rest and shade in the hottest parts of the day; plenty of clean, cool water is also essential.