AgriSafe Network COVID19 Webinar April 2nd 2020

As the COVID19 virus spreads, many of us are wondering what precautions agricultural producers should be taking and how those precautions might differ from the recommendations given to the general public. The AgriSafe network is preparing a webinar to address these issues on April 2nd 2020. The webinar is free to AgriSafe members and $30 for nonmembers. You can participate in the webinar as it happens if you log in to your computer during the event or watch it as a video afterwards. Registration for the webinar is already open and can be found at the link below.

Additionally, keep an eye on the CDC’s latest recommendations on preventing the spread of COVID19. Most of these are common sense things that we should be doing anyways like frequent hand washing and staying home if you’re sick. Keep in mind though that this virus is particularly severe for people over the age of 70 and anyone with pre-existing lung, heart, and immune system conditions. The vast majority of healthy adults and children who catch the virus will recover without becoming seriously ill, but if you or a family member falls into one of the high risk categories, be especially careful about potential exposures. Here is the link to the CDC’s recommendations page:

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Grain Engulfment Near-Miss

Today I’m sharing an article from Farm Progress about a farmer who survived being engulfed in a grain bin. There have been several fatal engulfments already this year, and as the article states around 50% of engulfments are fatal. The main factors that made this case a near miss were that other people were working nearby. No one should enter a grain bin without a second person there who is not in the grain and can get help, but fortunately in this case there were at least other people within earshot. Since the farmer’s leg was low enough in the bin that it was near the auger, it also sounds like the bin wasn’t full enough to completely submerge him. A third factor that helped was that the fire department was able to respond quickly and had a grain rescue system. More and more fire departments are investing in plastic barricades that help more grain from falling in and grain vacuums, plus the training to use them properly. However, there are still many rural fire departments who aren’t ready to respond to an engulfment.

Anyone who is cleaning and refilling bins needs to be especially careful given the late planting and wet conditions so far this year. Wet grain is more likely to form crusts which can either cause a hollow space to form under a surface layer resulting in a fall-through type engulfment or to cause grain to stick to the sides of the bin resulting in an avalanche-style engulfment. Engulfments are preventable. The UMASH grain safety checklist (link provided below) is a good starting point. Developing bin entry procedures that are appropriate to the type of bin being used and following them every single time someone enters the bin is key to preventing engulfment. Keeping kids out of grain bins is also important. A lot of kids are tempted by the idea of climbing and playing in grain so it is important to be sure that they don’t have access to bins or ladders.

Here is the link to the UMASH grain safety checklist:

For the original article by farm progress click here:

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Recall Notice: Voluntary recall of Southern States feed due to aflatoxin

I came across this recall notice today and figured I would pass it along. On the 6th Cargill announced a voluntary recall of some of it’s Six States brand animal feeds due to aflatoxin levels that exceeded FDA action levels. The affected bathes of feed were sold in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia , and a complete list of the recalled feeds can be seen in the original article. The primary hazard is to animals, who may become sick after eating the feed. No problems have been reported at this point, but they are issuing a voulntary recall for that batch of grain as a precaution.

I did some research on how aflatoxin and human health hazards. Most of the research I was able to find was about the short and long term health hazards of humans eating grain that contained aflatoxin. Eating grain with high quantities of aflatoxin can cause digestive symptoms and possibly liver and kidney damage. Long term exposure to aflatoxin in food may cause cancer. The only thing I could find on airborne exposure was that some people with allergies and asthma can have severe reactions to the mold. It seems like the risk of just handling the grain would be minimal, but some extra caution about breathing in the grain dust wouldn’t hurt, especially if you have allergies and asthma.

Here is the link to the detailed recall notice, which includes the batch numbers and labels of the feeds being recalled. If you have purchased grain from this batch, return it to where it was purchased for an exchange or refund.

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Case study: Anhydrous spill in Northern Illinois

A large-scale anhydrous leak happened in Illinois a few days ago, so I thought I’d use it as a case study. The information available in the original article is pretty limited, but even so I can see a few areas where prevention and response strategies could have been improved, as well as a few areas where people were taking precautions and responding appropriately.

Here is a quick summary of what happened:

-A farmer was pulling anhydrous with a tractor around 4:30 AM. As he drove down the road, a hose sprang a leak

-When firefighters responded, they thought it was just a car fire and weren’t wearing protective equipment or take precautions against chemical exposure initially

-as this was happening, people were driving through the gas and were having difficulty breathing. One driver even went off the road

-the area was heavily populated so people in their homes were also exposed

-In total over 40 people were taken to the hospital by ambulance, and many more drove themselves in.

Some things that went right:

-The driver of the tractor didn’t try to deal with the leak himself, and got out before he was seriously exposed.

-The driver of the tractor was moving anhydrous very early in the morning. Moving equipment, especially something as dangerous as anhydrous, during off-peak hours helps reduce the risk of crashes and the risk of people being exposed to the anhydrous in the event of a leak. This is especially important for heavily populated areas like where this leak happened.

-Someone called the fire department right away. No one tried to stop the leak on their own.

-Once the fire department figured out what was going on, they shut down roads, ordered residents within a 1 mile radius to stay indoors, performed evacuations, and performed wellness checks. In other words, once they figured out what they were dealing with, they took proper precautions to minimize people being exposed.

Some things that could have been improved:

-The fire department didn’t realize this was an anhydrous leak initially. The fire department should have known to look out for anhydrous if they get a call involving farm vehicles this time of year. Getting firefighters into the proper protective equipment right away would have prevented the most serious exposures, and getting the road closed and people inside earlier in the process would have considerably reduced the total number of people exposed.

-Drivers also didn’t realize this was an anhydrous leak and drove into the gas cloud, and at least one driver was going too fast to stop in time to avoid driving into the gas. So many on-road incidents happen because the drivers of passenger vehicles don’t know how to adjust their driving around ag vehicles or what the hazards might be. I’ve already seen a slew of public service announcements for drivers in the aftermath of this incident, but I wish there was more driver training and more drivers getting pulled over and ticketed for illegally passing ag vehicles.

-One thing I’d want to check is if the anhydrous equipment was being inspected regularly and properly, especially since we’re at the beginning of the season. Inspections won’t catch everything, but they go a long way towards preventing leaks.

All in all, it sounds like everyone who was involved is going to be OK, which is impressive considering the size of the leak and that it happened in a busy neighborhood. Still, if firefighters and drivers were more aware of the potential hazards and had been able to start responding to the situation correctly more quickly, the number and severity of exposures could have been dramatically reduced.

Here is a link to the original article:

Preparing for another bomb cyclone in the Midwest

I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather and it sounds like much of the Midwest might get another bomb cyclone in the next few days. Depending on where you live this could mean snow, freezing rain, or thunderstorms with high winds a lot of precipitation. This couldn’t have come at a worse time since we’re well into calving seasons and wanting to start planning.

The article I’m sharing today is from Beef Magazine, and it gives some tips on being prepared for the bad weather. High on the list is doing as much work in advance as you can to get cows who are about due to calve moved and doing as much feed prep as you are able to. Minimizing the amount of time spent outside when the weather is bad is the best approach, so if you’re in the path of the storm, try to get as much advanced preparation in as you can. For those who are getting snow and ice, also make sure that you have sand and salt ready for walkways. There were a number of reports of people being injured by falling on ice added to the database over the winter and a few minutes of salting/sanding can make a big difference in preventing falls. This might also be a good time to have a check-in plan in place so that something goes wrong out in the field and you’re not able to call for help other people know that there is a problem and come find you sooner rather than later. Make sure at least one other person knows where you will be working and when you expect to check in, and be sure to contact that person if your plan changes. Stay safe out there!

Here is the original article from Beef Magazine:

Helping Farmers Affected by the Nebraska Floods

I got a couple of messages this week asking for info on how to help farmers that have been affected by the recent flooding in Eastern Nebraska. I did a little research and found out that the Nebraska Farm Bureau has created a donation page and disaster exchange. The donation page allows anyone to donate to a disaster relief fund or apply for aid if you have been affected by the floods. The disaster exchange allows people to list extra supplies and feed that they’d be able to donate along with contact information so that farmers in need of specific supplies can browse through and see if anyone is offering what they need. A lot of hay and grain facilities have been ruined so feed seems to be the most urgent need. If you have been affected by the flood or would like to make an offer/donation the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s disaster relief page can be found at the link below:

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Last Chance to Participate in 2017 Census of Agriculture!

Data collection for the 2017 Census of Agriculture is winding down! The deadline for submitting paper surveys was June 15th, and the online survey will be open until the end of July. The data collected in the census is used to make decisions at the county, state, and federal level so it’s important to complete the survey if you were selected! This data set is an important resource for anyone trying to understand agriculture in the US, and I’ve used the 2012 data in pretty much every ag study I’ve participated in. If you still haven’t filled out your survey click here to open the census of agricuture website.

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  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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Upcoming Film Based on Illinois Grain Engulfment Case

An independent film company is working on a feature-length film about a grain engulfment that took place in 2010 in Mount Carroll Illinois.  Wyatt Whitebread, 14, and Alex Pacas, 19, died after becoming  engulfed in a corn bin while on the job.  A third victim Will Piper, 20, was rescued. The case led to major changes in regulations for bin entry and teenage employees in the grain industry. I was able to hear Annette Pacas, Alex’s mom, speak at a conference a few years ago.  Her presentation made a huge impression on me about how preventable these kinds of tragedies are and how much work is needed to improve safety in ag.

The film team has produced a 10 minute version of the film to promote the production of the feature length film. You can view the short version  here.  University of Kentucky’s Southeast Center for Agricultural Safety and Injury Prevention is also developing a study guide to go with the feature length film aimed at highschool level ag classes and FFA programs.

Click here to see the original article about the film by Illinois Farmer
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Silage Engulfment Kills 2 in Wisconsin (Incident report plus links to silo safety info)

A father and son were killed yesterday after being engulfed in silage at a farm in Barron, Wisconsin.  The announcement didn’t provide much detail on what happened, but it sounds like either a collapse of material stuck to the side of the silo or that there was a shell of material that collapsed underneath.

Click here to see the original article

While silage engulfments are less common than grain engulfments, they can occur under the right conditions.  The combination of silage with a higher moisture content and colder weather can sometimes cause partial freezing which can cause the silage to form crusts like a grain bin does.  The high narrow structure of a silo also makes it more difficult to install harnesses.

Click here to see a silo safety fact sheet

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Due to this and more common silo hazards like mold, silo gas, electrocution hazards, and fall hazards, many farmers have been opting to switch to horizontal silos such as silo bags and trench silos.  These systems aren’t without issues (finding the right location to put it can be tough and you have to be more careful about moisture accumulating in the bottom) but with a little extra planning they can be a good option both in terms of safety and in terms of reduced maintenance.

Click here for an introduction to silage bags

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