Summer Safety for Pets and Livestock

Today’s article from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is about keeping pets and livestock safe in summer heat, and how to spot signs of trouble.

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I took road trip vacation through most of the Southwest a few weeks ago and one thing I noticed that was different from farms further north is that a lot of the livestock operations had cooling stations, which were open buildings with built in sprinkler systems that provided shade and water cooling.  I also saw a fair number of pastures that were using irrigation systems to help the grass grow and to keep the animals cool. Temperatures were already over 100 degrees so I’m sure they appreciated it!  I couldn’t tell for sure from a distance, but it looked like they might have been using small-droplet style sprinkler heads to try to minimize water use too.

Another thing I want to mention is to be particularly careful shipping hogs in summer heat. I’ve already heard a couple of stories this summer of hogs dying in transit in hot weather. One girl lost all of her 4H show pigs on the way to the fair a few days ago.  Traveling in hot weather it tough on all animals, but hogs seem to have the most difficulties.

Keep cool out there, and have a great weekend!

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Video Monitoring System for Horse Health

Here is an interesting article I stumbled on while I was doing some  research on artificial intelligence for a school project.  There is a company in Seattle called Magic AI that has developed a system to monitor horse health and behavior using a camera and deep learning software.  For anyone that is unfamiliar with the term, a deep learning program is a type of artificial intelligence where a complex computer learning system is fed data to teach it to identify certain patterns.  For this system, they gave the computer videos of horses behaving normally and video of horses experiencing health problems or stress. The system is trained to recognize when a horse is showing signs of stress through a video camera, and can sent an alert to a cell phone app.  The system can also be configured to monitor things like temperature, food/water consumption, and to act as a security camera. Owners can also use the wireless connection to check on their horses at any time.  At $2500 plus a monthly subscription fee, it’s a pricey system for now, but it might offer a glimpse into the future of health and security monitoring.

Click here to see the article

Hay Baling Safety

It’s that time of the summer where everyone is putting up hay, so I thought I’d share some baling safety tips. Whether you do small squares, big squares, round bales, or silage it can be a particularly dangerous job. The article from MyFarmLife.com is mostly about avoiding machinery hazards like spinning PTO shafts, stored energy in flywheels, and rollover hazards while moving bales.

Click here to see the article
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I’d also like to add a few  suggestions specific to baling and unloading small squares that have come up in my personal experience.  Having spent many hours loading and unloading hay, and having experienced several injuries in the process here are a few things to look out for:

-Climbing on and off of moving wagons while loading is particularly risky.  There are lots of hidden bumps and holes in fields so it’s easy to fall or to twist an ankle or knee, plus there is a risk of being run over if you fall.  Stopping when someone needs to get on and off a wagon takes less than a minute and it’s much safer.

-If you’re using a thrower, don’t have someone in the wagon trying to stack. The few people I know that have tried this have all been knocked over by falling bales multiple times and it’s really easy to get hurt doing it.

-Take precautions against overheating when baling and unloading in hot weather. Heat exhaustion is the most common problem I’ve seen people have when handling hay.  Be especially cautious with newer employees who might not be used to working in the heat.  Encourage everyone to take breaks as needed rather than trying to tough it out, and consider waiting until later in the afternoon to bale if it’s particularly hot out.

Click here for an article about working outdoors in summer heat

-Keep your wagons in good condition and make sure there are no holes or gaps in the floor of the wagon. Putting your foot through the floor or tripping on a gap between boards while you’re carrying a bale or two is an easy way to get hurt.

-Bale elevators are another hazard that a lot of baling safety guides seem to miss. The teeth that carry the bales can be sharp, especially if they’ve worn down over time.  The drive belt can be a hazard too, especially if the guard is missing.  It’s important to keep some space between where the bottom of the elevator sits and where people are walking or standing to load bales.  If you’re using the elevator on an incline, be sure to anchor the top and the bottom of the elevator so that it doesn’t slide down.  Try to minimize the distance the bales have to fall as they come off the end, and don’t walk under or climb on the elevator when it’s running.

-Make sure that you are using protective equipment when baling.  I have a sound meter app on my phone and the sound level of our tractor and baler was about 95 decibels, which is enough to cause damage after only a few hours of exposure.  Sun exposure is another problem. Even if you don’t burn normally, being out in the sun for hours in an open field can cause burns and skin damage.  You may also want to consider wearing a mask and/or eye protection, especially if you have allergies or are baling hay that is particularly dusty or potentially moldy.  The worst experience I’ve had farming was  an allergic reaction in my eyes from baling rained-on hay that was starting to mold. My corneas swelled and I had to spend almost a week in a dark room because I was so sensitive to light. Being aware of the environmental conditions and taking the appropriate precautions can save you a lot of trouble later on!

Those are some of the main hazards that come to mind when I think of the ways people I know have been injured while handling hay. Stay safe out there, and if I think of anything else I’ll be sure to add it to the list!

Research: New Farm Injury Study based on Newspaper Reports

Here is an article from Farm Journals: Pork that gives a summary of a research study that was recent released in the academic journal Injury Prevention. This research was in some ways similar to what I’m trying to do with this online system.  The study analyzed news reports of farming injuries that have been collected by AgInjuryNews.org.  It found that tractors were the most common source of injury overall, but that all terrain vehicles were the most common source of injury for children under the age of 18.  The article also highlights some of the gaps in information about ag injuries, which is the problem I’m trying to address with this project. It just goes to show that even with some of the really creative ways researchers have come up with to try to better understand and prevent farming injuries, we still have a long way to go.

Click here to see the article

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