With temperatures set to hit as high as 30 degrees in places over the coming days, if not higher, we have a full checklist to ensure your farm is as equipped as it should be.
Animals suffer more than most during extended periods of hot weather and it can, in fact, be very dangerous, if not fatal.
Therefore farmers should be doing all they can to ensure their livestock and farms are fully protected. Animals with darker coats are more likely to overheat than most and can even suffer mild heat stress at temperatures of just 25 degrees Celsius. Check out some of the early heat stress signs, as posted by us here.
It is not only livestock at risk though, as there are also many other dangers present on a farmyard.
Tips to ensure you are well prepared -
1 - Water - To prevent heat stress in livestock, always ensure they have access to clean, drinking water at all times. Cattle will drink more water to help them cool down and dairy cows generally consume up to 120 litres of water as it is. These levels are likely to increase in prolonged warm weather periods.
Water should also be changed regularly, as it will become stagnant and too warm for consumption. Regularly check water sources as the sun could also evaporate any water very quickly.
For crops and even grass meadows, one option is spreading water late in the evenings. Many farmers have begun doing this via fertiliser spreaders, which act as efficient sprayers. A few days without water can be disastrous for a field of crops and even grass being kept for silage.
2 - Shade - Another vital one for ensuring your stock are as protected as they can be.
Hedgerows and trees act as a suitable natural source of shade, though in unsheltered pastures it might be an idea to make an improvised shelter, using a tarp or other materials. If all else fails, it is advised to house livestock during the warmest parts of the day. This will allow you to have peace of mind, as you can account for their whereabouts, though ensure there is adequate ventilation.
3 - Feeding - In warmer weather, one should consider altering feed rations to prevent a drop in production.
Adding salt to ration can help prevent ruminal acidocis, which caused by feeding at inopportune times. You may have to feed at cooler times of the day to prevent it. Digestion is severely affected by high temperatures, therefore it is advised to lower the volume of concentrates fed. Cattle tend to lose their appetite in warmer weather, affecting body condition and even fertility. Stay vigilant and ensure all of your stock are consuming enough in their diet.
4 - Fodder - When storing fodder, be extra careful and check for any potential fire hazards. Even freshly turned grass can ignite quickly in extreme temperatures, such was the case in Galway recently, as reported by us here.
Always ensure any fodder is stored in a cool dry place, with no shiny objects nearby. Shiny materials or objects can be potential fire hazards, especially when located beside dry materials.
5 - Working with machinery - Operating machinery at any time presents its own dangers, no more so than in warmer weather.
The FCI issued a safety message yesterday, warning farmers and contractors of the dangers when making hay bales. The first message of warning was to always make sure the baler is air hosed at the end of each day, while they also warned that it may be necessary to air hose machines during the day.
“It is important to keep crop, chaff, twine and net wrap material from building up on the machine near potentially hot areas, such as bearings, on ends of balers rolls and around the slip clutch. “, they also warned. They finally advised that all those working with machinery this week, to ALWAYS carry a fire extinguisher.
Any machinery not in use should be stored in a cool dry place. Though the chances of one combusting are slim, they do have fuel tanks which present a combustion danger. Fuels should also be stored away in a cool, dry place and away from any combustible materials.
Shiny objects in tractors or machinery, especially those working in extreme heats, present a huge danger for spontaneous combustion. Many cases of this have been reported in recent years and it can all happen very quickly!
6 - Protect Yourself - For farmers working in machinery, make sure to take as many rest periods as needed.
Working in a machine all day is tiring enough as it is, though it can be even more challenging with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees. Taking a five-minute break will give you the extra momentum to continue your work, while also giving your body a chance to cool down. You do not want to suffer from heat stroke.
Always keep yourself hydrated by drinking as much water as possible. You wouldn’t let your stock go without, so why should you?
Finally, make sure and apply some sun cream, the most simple and effective way of protecting yourself. The Irish population are not used to UV rays of the magnitude and we all know the tortures of sunburn!