Wet hay hazards

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If other people are having some of the same issues our farm has with this wet weather, you’re probably nearing the end of your hay reserves and chomping at the bit waiting for dryer weather to start first cutting. Keep in mind though that there are several hazards associated with wet hay, especially hay that has over 20% moisture for small square bales, 18% for round bales, and 16% for large squares when baled without a preservative. The best way to prevent these hazards is to make sure the hay is dry enough before you bale it, but it can be hard to avoid getting a few wet bales every now and then.

The most severe hazard is the risk of spontaneous combustion. If the hay starts decomposing, it can generate a lot of heat, and if this happens in the middle of the stack you might not notice until you have a big problem. Combustion can happen within 3 or 4 weeks of baling, and at temperatures as low as 175 degrees Fahrenheit. The other main hazard is mold, which can ruin the hay and cause health problems for people and animals. Hay that is baled when it is still too wet can also loose a lot of it’s nutritional value.

Ideally, the best prevention is to avoid baling when the hay is too wet, but anyone that has been in the hay business knows that this doesn’t always happen even when conditions are ideal. One thing that I’ve seen people do with wet hay that seems to be pretty effective is to stack the hay on pallets in an open area away from buildings and put a tarp over it to prevent it from getting wetter. Also make it part of your routine to monitor your hay for hot spots for the first month or so after you store it. If you get temps over 130, monitor it daily. If you find any spots over 145, you’re nearing the combustion point and should remove bales from the hot spot. Over 160, call the fire department because your hay is either on fire or almost on fire.

Another strategy, especially if you only have a few wet bales mixed in, is to feed the wet bales first. This prevents fires and also helps you get the most out of the hay before it gets moldy or looses nutritional value. In my experience the big squares seem to be especially prone to mold, plus if they do go bad it’s a lot of material to dispose of, so for those be very careful of your moisture levels and consider using a preservative if you don’t already.

There are also a number of strategies to optimize drying while the hay is in the field. The Wisconsin extension has a good summary of things you can do as far as width of rows and timing of raking with a lot of good graphs and data tables so I’ll share that in the link below.

I’m really hoping the weather will dry up soon so we can get some hay up without it being wet, but given the weather reviewing some strategies for preventing wet hay or dealing with it when it happens seems like a good idea. Here is a link to the original article I was reading. This article also has a link to Purdue’s comprehensive forage guide, which goes into great detail about how to prevent mold/fires and general information and planting strategies for forage crops.


Case Study: Farmer rescued from downed powered lines

A farmer in Michigan was rescued unharmed after power lines fell on his tractor. This is a great example of a near-miss where the farmer could have been killed or seriously injured but got out unharmed because he responded correctly to the situation, so I thought I’d write up a quick overview.

What happened: A farmer was discing his field and hit a power pole. The power lines dropped on top of his tractor and equipment. The farmer called 911 from his tractor and first responders shut off the power so that he could get out safely. A fairly large area briefly lost power but no one was harmed.

What went wrong: Basically the only thing that went wrong in this situation was the farmer hitting the power pole. Obviously avoiding obstacles in the field is important and if the farmer had avoided the pole none of this would have been necessary, but after that point their response to the situation was perfect and no one was hurt.

The hazards involved:Live electrical wires are extremely dangerous, and can cause death and severe injury if someone touches them while the power is flowing. Additionally, because the tractor and equipment are made of metal, the equipment itself may have been carrying a charge depending on where the cables landed.

What went right: Most importantly, the farmer didn’t try to get out of the tractor or touch the door handle or the outside of the tractor. They called 911 and waited for the power company to turn off the power so that they could get out safely. Carrying a cell phone with them was critical in this case because they were able to get help quickly and didn’t risk either leaving the tractor themselves or someone finding them and getting electrocuted in the process of getting out. Emergency services did a great job handling this too. They got the power shut off and let the people whose power got shut off for a while know what was happening. They didn’t send any of their people in until they were sure the power was off.

The bottom line: Power lines and electricity in general is very dangerous and because you can’t see it, it’s easy to accidentally touch something that is live and get shocked. If you are ever in a situation where there are downed power lines don’t touch them, call 911, and if you’re in a vehicle stay inside until you get the all-clear. This situation could have gone from equipment damage to someone being severely injured or killed very easily, but the way that the farmer and emergency services responded to the situation prevented a bad situation from getting much worse.

Here is the original story from AgDaily:


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Earn $50 by completing young worker supervisor training and survey

One of the professors I work with at the University of Iowa is looking for people to test a training program for people who train and supervise agricultural workers under the age of 21. Participants who complete the training a survey will earn $50, and if you complete a second survey 3 months later, you can earn another $50. The training and survey can be done online and take about an hour to complete. Over half of occupational fatalities involving people under the age of 21 are in ag. I haven’t seen exactly what is in the training program, but my guess is that it covers a lot of the material that our university ag safety courses cover on the safety risks to younger workers and strategies that can be used to help prevent younger workers from getting hurt on the farm. Here is the link to the study website if you would like to participate!


Dealing with mud in fields: an introduction to field tile

Continuing with the theme of dealing with mud, I thought I’d share some resources on installing and maintaining field tile. Field tile is one of the main ways to deal with fields that are persistently muddy. Field tile instillation and maintenance can be a big job. I’ve helped dig holes and unclog tile multiple times and for me it was one of the more annoying farm jobs I’ve done. The older terracotta tiles which were common until the 1980’s can crack and collapse over time and any type of tile can get clogged with tree roots and miscellaneous debris. Once we even saw a full grown fish swimming through the tile sideways! Despite the drawbacks, if a field is waterlogged year after year, investing in tile can make a huge difference in being able to reliably get good yields, and often pay for themselves in increased profits within five years. Reducing mud also can improve safety since it makes it prevents equipment from getting stuck or damaged and prevents mud from building up on surfaces. I’ve put together a collection of articles that cover different aspects of installing and maintaining field tile.

Starting with the basics, here is an article that gives a good introduction to what field tile is and how it works:


Generally it is best to have tile installed by a professional. Getting a field tile system that works is much more complicated than digging a hole and sticking some tubing in the ground. A lot of factors must be considered including the soil type and density, the volume of water than needs to be drained, the placement of the outflow drains, the grading of the tile line, and the spacing and layout of the tile to name a few. Depending on what’s in your area, you may also have to consider conservation and get the instillation approved by the county, so check what your local regulations are early on if you’re thinking about installing tile. This link to a presentation by the Wisconsin extension shows an overview of some of the technical considerations involved in designing a tile system. Some of the things they cover in this presentation were covered in the fluid mechanics classes I took as an undergrad for my mechanical engineering degree so it’s pretty technical stuff.


Repairing field tile can reasonably be a DIY project depending on where the issue is and the characteristics of the individual field. Again, in some areas even repairs need to be approved by the county so make sure to check local regulations before you dig. The Indiana extension has a guide on how to fix several common field tile problems.


Don’t Mud it In-Advice on dealing with mud from Successful Farmer

Given that a lot of us are struggling to get corn in I thought I’d share this article from Successful Farmer on why waiting for things to dry out, even with as late as it is, is better than trying to mud in your seed. The article mainly focuses on yields and financial reasons for delaying, but there are safety reasons for waiting too. On the financial side, corn can still reach 100% of its yield if it’s planted in late May, and it’s possible to switch to shorter season seeds and get good yields planting even in early June. Planting when the ground is too wet can harm yields and we’re not at the point yet where time loss would affect yield worse than putting it in the ground when it’s too wet. On the safety side of things, mud can cause stuck equipment and make surfaces slick, which can in turn lead to injury. I know everything is wet and everyone is running late, and that can be incredibly frustrating, but the benefits of waiting until the field is dry enough outweigh the risks in terms of yield and in terms of safety.


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Mud hazards and horses

Continuing with my theme on dealing with mud and preventing mud-related injuries, here is an article with some strategies for dealing with mud on trails and in horse facilities. In addition to creating hazards for people, mud is a health hazard for horses. It can cause foot health issues, increase the risk of falls, and is generally unpleasant for them. Many of the strategies listed in the article such as installing gutters and berms and putting buildings and outdoor arenas on the highest ground possible are good advice for any animal facility. Pay special attention to high traffic areas since they tend to accumulate mud more easily and because the exposure happens more often. Click on the link below to see an article from Equus Magazine on preventing mud in stables and arenas.


Another important area to consider mud when you have horses is on trails. Mud makes it much easier for horses to loose their footing, and mud can hide other hazards for your horses’ feet like rocks or other objects. Horses can even become stuck if the mud is deep enough. Anything that creates a hazard for the horse also creates a hazard for the rider. I found a second article from Equus gives some advice on dealing with mud on trails. Also if you have students or boarders that are less experienced, make sure that they know how to deal with mud before they go out. Riders with less experience are more prone to getting their horses or themselves in trouble even in ideal conditions, and according to the regional rural injury study, riding is the top cause of ag injuries for girls under the age of 18.


Video: Dealing with mud in feedlots

I’m out working on the farm for the summer and the big struggle the past few days has been dealing with the heavy rain and mud. Mud is a pain to deal with but it actually can have a big impact on safety too. When I look through the database, I see a lot of reports that have muddy conditions as a major cause of injury. There seem to be three main ways in which mud leads to injuries. The first scenario is where muddy conditions forces farmers into unusual situations where an injury is more likely to occur. For example, a tractor gets stuck in the mud, and in the process of getting it unstuck, someone gets their fingers pinched in a chain. The second scenario is doing an everyday task becomes more dangerous due to muddy conditions. For example, moving cattle in the mud causes someone to slip and fall and hurt their knee. The third scenario is where mud builds up on a surface and either hides a hazard or gunks up the grips on a surface. For example, slipping on tractor steps that have gotten muddy or stepping on a nail buried in the mud. I’m going to try to put together a couple more articles this week focusing on different ways of dealing with mud in different parts of the farm.

The video I’m sharing today is from a series called Doc Talk, which features a vet associated with the Kansas extension. The video talks about mud management from the standpoint of optimizing profit and cattle health in beef operations, but keeping mud levels under control can prevent injuries too.

Yamaha Rhino Rollover Hazard

I was doing some research on different types of ATVs and came across this article on the Yamaha Rhino. Technically the Rhino is classified as a side-by-side vehicle and not an ATV, but they are used for some of the same jobs. While all ATVs/small ground vehicles present hazards that must be addressed, it seems like the Rhino is especially dangerous due to it’s design. The base of the Rhino is too narrow for it’s weight and height, which makes it prone to tipping over. Dozens of people have been injured and several have been killed. The main way these injuries are occurring is that the open side and top of the vehicle allows passengers to fall out during a rollover and then the vehicle, which weighs several thousand pounds, falls on top of them. Usually wearing a seat belt prevents passengers from being ejected, but in some cases even passengers wearing seat belts were injured because the catch on the belt didn’t work and the belt became too loose during the rollover. Yamaha has faced dozens of lawsuits over the Rhino, and documentation from the lawsuits has shown that they were aware of some of the design flaws before it was released. They have issued recommendations for making the vehicles safer like wearing seat belts and helmets, but no recall was issued.

If you have one of these vehicles, or a different brand of vehicle that has a similar shape (tall, with a narrow wheel base), the safest thing to do is probably to replace it with a model that is more stable. If replacing the whole vehicle isn’t possible, consider installing a new seat belt or side doors, especially in pre-2010 models. At one point Yamaha was offering customers side doors for model years 2006-2008, but I haven’t been able to figure out if the upgrade is still available for free. Seat belts, side doors, and covers that fully enclose the cab are readily available online, with prices ranging from around $50 for a seat belt kit to $700 for a deluxe full cab enclosure. Riders should always use seat belts and wear an ATV or motorcycle helmet.

`Additionally, you can take steps to prevent rollover by changing your driving habits. Try to avoid driving on slopes as much as possible, and if you do drive on slopes, drive straight up and down them rather than going at an angle. Avoid ruts that can cause one side of the vehicle to drop lower than the other. Don’t load anything on top of the vehicle since this makes it more prone to tipping over. Most ATVs and utility vehicles aren’t meant for on-road use or driving at high speeds, so make sure that you’re following the guidelines for the model you own.

ATVs and utility vehicles can help make your job easier, but it’s important to be aware of the general hazards of using them as well as problems caused by particular models. I think a lot of people who own these vehicles are aware that they’re prone to tipping, but hopefully sharing this article will help people realize how big the problem is and maybe some new ways of dealing with the problem. Stay safe out there!

Here is the link to the original article:


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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: