Winter brings much-needed rain and soil benefits for farmers, but it also brings an added risk of slippery roads with poor visibility and sickly animals which struggle to survive. With such uncertain weather conditions, it’s important for farmers to prepare for safety leading up to the colder months. It’s important that you identify your business risks and put together an emergency plan for any winter-related event.
Here are a few tips on how you can prepare for winter on your farm:
Identify and fix any farm road concerns
Gravel is the strongest type of material for roads because it’s safer to operate on and is more durable in the long-term. It’s aesthetically pleasing on farmlands, however, this material does require regular maintenance checks, especially before and after winter. While a dirt road might sound like the easiest shortcut or temporary choice for winter circumstances, dirt roads can prove to be a nightmare when it comes to winter on the farm. Heavy rains can lead to dirt roads disappearing and becoming extremely muddy and dangerous. So, whether you’re transporting your staff, produce, livestock or allowing your customers to make their way to your farm, gravel is a reliable option in uncertain weather conditions.
On your roads, every pothole or rut should be maintained with road graders before the heavy rain sets in to avoid the freeze and thaw cycle. Make use of your tractor, road grader and a ploughing implement to scrape off any snow or mud that could affect anyone’s ability to visit the farm safely. Make sure this movement is done from side to side and not from the middle, as this could damage the road’s surface.
Prepare your barn and monitor your livestock
If livestock form part of your production plan, prepare your barn for them to move into over the colder months. It’s critical that your animals are safe, warm and sheltered when the wet weather starts to creep in, as any animal that is struggling with a poor immune system can quickly become vulnerable to fatal diseases and viruses. As the barn may be their location for quite some time, make an effort to ensure that there is enough space for each animal to lie down and feel comfortable to avoid animals from becoming stressed. Keep feed away from wet areas to avoid contamination, and monitor each animal daily.
Store and maintain your agriculture equipment
When winter comes around, the harvest season comes to an end and it’s time for you to store your equipment for the duration of winter. As you can imagine, equipment that is not maintained and is stored for long periods of time without operation can become faulty the minute you decide to start it up. To winter-proof your tractor, look at its hydraulic, fuel and electrical systems. Replace the current engine lube with something lighter, and restore the antifreeze in the engine. You might think it’s unnecessary to fill up your tank when your tractor is simply going to be out-of-action for a while, but if you want to prevent fuel gelling from taking place, you will need to keep a full tank of fuel. As for your tillage equipment, spreading equipment, grader and other road maintenance equipment, make sure that you pressure wash each unit to avoid rust.
The time for harvest has unfortunately come to an end, but farming activity shouldn’t have to. The colder months are the perfect time to prepare your soil for the next harvest. The combination of rain and nutrient-rich fertilisers will help to give your soil the minerals it needs to develop a strong foundation for your next harvest. This process will help to enrich your soil and prepare it for a successful production.
Having a secure winter strategy in place will help to ensure that everything runs smoothly, and that you’re never faced with a challenging situation. While it may feel miserable and unproductive, winter is crucial to farmers when preparing for a new and fresh season.