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.


Product Review: See Her Work Women’s Impact Gloves

Back in January I made a post about a company called See Her Work, which makes protective equipment designed specifically for women. I ended up buying a pair of their Impact work gloves, and now that I’ve had a chance to use them I thought I would write a review. So far I’ve used the gloves to do some farm work over spring break and to build a dollhouse. I’ll start with a general overview then go into more detail about how the gloves performed in each situation.

General overview:
When you buy these gloves online, there is a size chart that you can print out in order to find the correct size. I was right on the cutoff line between the medium and large sizes, and bought a medium. When I first got the gloves, I was actually a bit worried I had bought the wrong size because they were super tight, but fortunately after I had worn them a while they loosened up a bit and now fit perfectly. I think they come a bit smaller with the expectation that they’ll stretch out a bit with use, so if you buy them and they’re too small at first don’t worry because they’ll relax a bit within a few hours of wearing them. They’re super comfortable to wear, and the material breathes enough that you don’t wind up with sweat pooling inside of the gloves. At $35 they’re a bit pricey, but not much more so than if you were to buy men’s gloves of a similar quality, so if you’re going to spend the money on a nice pair of work gloves, a few dollars extra to get ones that actually fit properly isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re spending that much on gloves, you also want them to last. The big unknown for me at this point is whether or not they’ll hold up long enough to make the price worthwhile. After several weeks of being worn fairly regularly for farm work and carpentry work they’re still in perfect shape, but it’ll be a while before I know if they hold together in the long run.

performance during farm work:

I wore these gloves while I was home over spring break and they performed really well on the farm. During break I was working 8-10 hour days doing a pretty standard assortment of early spring farm work: feeding bucket calves, hauling grain and silage buckets, moving hay/straw, driving, cleaning the shop, changing oil, changing tires, moving cattle, etc. The gloves performed well overall. The biggest difference I saw in the farm tasks was for carrying buckets and silage baskets. One issue I (and probably a lot of other female farm workers) encounter is that because my fingers are so much smaller, hauling buckets with wire handles can be uncomfortable to downright painful. If you think about it in terms of physics, it makes sense why this happens. I’m carrying the same amount of weight as anyone else, but my fingers are half the size so the pressure where the wire sits is about double. A persistent problem I’ve had wearing nicer men’s gloves is that , the extra reinforcement in the fingers doesn’t sit in the right spot on my fingers, making it pretty much useless for most carrying tasks. Women’s gardening gloves fit better, but offer almost 0 protection from bucket handles. The women’s impact gloves were a great fix for this! The reinforcement on the fingers made a huge difference for buckets and for hay and straw bales. I was even able to move hay bales 2 at a time because my fingers weren’t being pinched as much, which is something I’ve never been able to do before. Again, the jury is out on whether or not they’ll hold up for a whole baling season, but the improvement in comfort is impressive. It was also much easier to do things like unscrew caps to put hydraulic oil in the tractor or pick up tools in the shop, but I’ll expand on that more in the next section. For some of the other tasks that required less hand work like driving or grinding feed the difference was less noticeable although the fact that they were generally more comfortable was appreciated.

performance building a dollhouse:

The second task where I’ve used the gloves was to make dollhouse as a present for someone based off of one of the plans Stanley Tools published back in the 70’s. This project was sort of the opposite side of the spectrum from farm work. It involved a lot of fine detail work with a jigsaw, tiny nails, and using a drill to make pilot holes for most of the door and window openings. I thought the impact gloves performed exceptionally well for this project. Normally I can’t wear gloves at all when I’m working with tools. The fingers of men’s gloves are too big and fumbly to do anything with and gardening gloves have 0 grip to pick up or hold anything. Being able to wear gloves when I’m using power tools and hammering nails is where I noticed the biggest impact on safety, since I wasn’t able to wear anything to protect my hands before. I actually hit my finger at one point when I was putting in a nail at an awkward angle, but my finger didn’t turn black and blue because the armor on the outside of the gloves protected me. The grip on these gloves is probably the most amazing part. I could pick up nails off the ground! I could control the pressure on the trigger of my jigsaw and do fine detail work while wearing gloves! I could even hold a pencil to draw marking lines so I didn’t have to take my gloves on and off all the time as I was working! The gloves also kept the sawdust and glue off of my hands so at the end of the day getting myself cleaned up was a lot easier than it is normally.

In summary, the gloves have performed very well so far. The jury is still out on how well they will hold up in the long run, which is an important factor to consider given the price, but the bottom line is that having work gloves that fit properly made a big difference in my comfort level doing farm work and in safety when using tools. I’m planning on wearing them for baling season this summer and will post an update on how well they hold up to moving thousands of bales of hay. If that goes well I’m probably going to buy a second pair, and maybe a pair of their leather gloves as well.

Here is the link to the original article I wrote back in January:

And here is one to the See Her Work online store:

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:


Tools for creating a safety and health program on your farm

The Canadian group AgSafe has released an updated set of tools for creating a safety and health program on your farm.  The new tool set is divided into strategies for small and large farms.  The documents provided are a short summary of everything that was covered in the first two semesters of agricultural safety and health classes that I took when I had just started my PhD program, so if it seems like a lot of information to take in at once, it is!  This program seems to cover a broader range of topics and has more detailed advice than some of the other DIY farm safety program systems.

I’ve been doing some research on Canadian agricultural safety and health lately since their injury and fatality rates are much lower than the US despite having similar crop and farmer demographics.  What I’ve found out is that in the 1990’s there was a massive movement to better understand and prevent farming injuries that is still continuing today.   AgSafe is one of several outreach programs created after results from the first round of big research studies came in, and the effort  put into it’s development really shows.

Their audit program is only available in Canada, however they have included the document they use to conduct audits with the other materials so that you can get an idea of how your operation would perform in one of their audits.


Click here to see the AgSafe tool set

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Video: Interview with PTO entanglement survivor

Here is a video from the Irish Farm Journal that interviews a farmer who lost his left leg and severely injured his right leg in a PTO shaft entanglement. PTO shaft injuries are one of the top causes of ag injuries and fatalities after tractor rollover and on-road collisions.  The main two factors leading to this injury were loose clothing (his overalls broke and he let one of the straps dangling) and working near a PTO shaft while it was running. Just as a warning some of the descriptions of the incident are pretty graphic and they show what his legs look like now.

I’m also sharing a link to  the Pennsylvania Extension’s guide to preventing PTO injuries and to a place that sells easy-access replacement guards that can be pulled back for easier access to grease fittings.  Some states have programs that provide free/reduced-cost guards, so be sure to check with your local extension office to see what is available in your area!

Click here for the PennState guide to PTO Safety

Click here for PTO guards

Thanks to everyone who made reports over the holidays!

I just wanted to take a minute to say thanks to everyone that has made reports! I just got back from the holiday break and was able to catch up on database intermittence and there were 20 new reports!  The reports are what will ultimately help reduce injuries, so keep them coming!  Over the next few days I’ll take a closer look at the data and see if there are any emerging trends.

Thanks again, and have a great new year!

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Tagging problems (literally) an idea from the 2018 MRASH conference

A few weeks ago I went to the Midwestern Regional Agricultural Safety and Health (MRASH) conference in Council Bluffs Iowa to present the results of the part of my research that developed the agricultural self-report system.  At the conference, farmers and ag safety people meet to talk research and different strategies they’ve tried to improve safety.

One of the farmers at the conference talked about system they were using at their large grain operation and it seemed pretty easy and useful so I thought I’d share it here.   Basically, what they do is have everyone carry around cheap red tags that hold on with wire and a marker.  If a piece of equipment is broken or being worked on, they write the problem on the tag and attach it in an obvious spot like the steering wheel or hitch or key so that if anyone else tries to move it or use it they know there is a problem and have what is going on with that piece of equipment.  It’s a variation of a safety strategy called lock out tag out, which involves putting a lock or a tag on a piece of equipment so that no one can physically turn it on while it is being worked on. It might be particularly useful for larger farms where not everyone knows immediately about every single problem.  It’s a pretty cheap solution too. You can find the tags at most office supply stores and it’s less than $10 for a huge box of them.

This tagging system is one way to avoid the types of incidents where one person is working on something and then another person turns on the machine.  The example they were talking about at the conference was a case where someone was working on a silo unloader and almost lost their arm because another employee didn’t know they were in there and started running silage. It would also prevent equipment damage caused by someone trying to use something that is already broken.

Red Cardstock Tags (with wires)

Best Farm Footwear 2018

With the holidays coming up in a few weeks I thought I’d share an article on the top 10 farm and work boots of 2018. The list contains a variety of slip-on and lace-up options with shopping links.

Click here to view article

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Wearing steel-toed boots with good treads that keep your feet warm and dry is a little thing that actually can have a big impact on safety.  Feet that are too cold, sore, or wet make you more susceptible to slips, trips, and falls.  Boots that have good treads can also help you keep your feet on the ground. Boots that come up above your ankle can help prevent ankle injuries if you do trip.   Finally, sturdy boots with steel toes and a thick sole help protect your feet from objects and animals.

I think everyone in my family has experienced at least one injury because they didn’t take the time to put on proper footwear before going out to the barn.  Over winter break 2 years ago  I got a nasty bruise on my foot just from cleaning the shop because I was wearing regular tennis shoes.  I was stacking scrap iron and a piece fell off the pile and landed on my foot. If it had been one of the bigger pieces, I probably would have wound up with broken bones! Even though I wasn’t going home often at the time, I tracked down a pair of steel toed boots to wear there because tennis shoes just weren’t going to work.  Another time back in high school, I was very close to getting a nail in my foot because I had been wearing the same boots for several years and the soles weren’t thick enough any more to protect my feet. Luckily I pulled my foot back because I was moving slowly enough that I could feel the nail going through my boot but if I had been in more of a hurry it probably would have wound up in my foot.

So if your boots are getting old and worn, it might be a good time to invest in some new ones, and make sure that everyone is wearing their safety shoes if they’re going to be in the barn!

National Farm Safety and Health Week Webinars

It’s National Farm Safety and Health week, and the AgriSafe network is hosting a series of online seminars.  You can participate in the seminars directly by registering on the AgriSafe website then following the login instructions on the day of the seminar, or you can view them afterwards by clicking on the video links.  All of the sessions all of the sessions are free and open to the public! It seems like it’s taking a few hours for them get the videos uploaded after the live sessions end though, so if the video you want to see isn’t available right away, try checking again in a few hours.

Click here to see the event list and to register

 The topics for this year’s sessions are:

New Immigrants in the Midwest and Agricultural Health Implications

Respiratory Health and Personal Protective Equipment for Ag Producers

Children and Tractors: Myths, Facts, or “Other”

Train the Trainer: Hazard Mapping in the Ag Classroom

Safe and Healthy Recovery After a Farm Flood

Confined Space – Grain Bin Entry

Optimizing the Health of the Female Agricultural Producer

AgriSafe also has a great Youtube channel that covers a lot of the  topics from this and from previous National Farm Safety and Health Week seminars.

Click here to see the AgriSafe Youtube channel

Article: The Importance of Talking About Safety

Here is an article by Herald&Review about why talking about safety on the farm is so important.  The first article hints at one of the core ideas behind the self-report system: that knowing about someone else’s injury or near miss can be enough to prevent an injury.

Click here to see the article

Making a habit of talking and thinking about safety can also help with decision making under pressure. When people are trying to beat the clock or faced with a problem that is happening quickly, there just isn’t time to think things through. The more that you can make safety an instinct rather than something you have to think about, the more you’ll be able to make safer decisions when the pressure is on.

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