Many parts of the UK have already been hit by freezing temperatures and the Met Office has warned that we could face a full La Niña weather event. Our last very cold winter was in 2010, when record low temperatures left the entire country covered in snow and ice. With the wet weather we have experienced over recent winters though, farmers in the South West are also likely to be bracing themselves for storms and heavy rain.
We understand that farmers are busy and it can be difficult to find time to prepare for harsh winter weather. The message we want to get across is that spending time cleaning and servicing machinery or maintaining buildings now can prevent serious problems further down the line. This winter we really want to impress on our Members the importance of planning ahead.
Service farm machinery before it goes into storage
Clean machinery and add anti-freeze before it is stored away. Debris left in a combine harvester for example, can cause a fire when it is started in the spring. Cornish Mutual handles a number of insurance claims involving farm machinery that has failed as a result of not being cleaned or serviced the previous winter.
Have contingency plans for livestock
Think about whether you would be able to reach your animals in deep snow, particularly in remote areas. You may need to consider moving animals from high ground before extreme weather arrives. Keep feed accessible and in the right environment and check water to make sure animals can survive if they are temporarily stranded. A late cold snap can be especially problematic, particularly if it falls during lambing season. Ensure you have some shelter to protect animals for cold winds.
Reduce flood risks and storm damage
Regularly check field drains to identify any flood risks. To prepare for heavy rain, gutters should be cleaned out and drained, while fences and roofs should be periodically checked to ensure they are secure for storms.
Keep employees and the public safe
Building damage can also potentially lead to public liability problems as there is a risk of debris hitting people or causing trip hazards. We advise our Members to cordon off the affected area – especially if it is a public right of way.
Farmers need to be aware of their responsibilities to keep employees and contractors safe all year round but cold weather brings new challenges. Simply keeping grit and salt around can keep yards safe for vehicles and people working.
Work together and support your neighbours
Rural communities are generally very tight knit and farmers often help each other out. It is a good idea to share your contingency plans with neighbouring farmers and consider ways you could help each other if weather conditions become difficult.
By Cornish Mutual Claims Advisor Pam Mundy