Drive down a rural highway this summer and you will see round hay bales scattered across farm fields. Those bales are more than just a pretty sight—when fields are frozen this winter those bales will feed livestock.
Hay bales testify to the hard work of farmers and their dependence upon Mother Nature. Harvesting and transporting hay can be dangerous. With stories of hay baling accidents in the news recently, Grinnell Mutual recommends using planning and teamwork to help farmers reduce their risks of accident or injury.
Check equipment before you harvest hay
"With unforeseen weather issues, farmers may find themselves behind the eight ball," said Glenda Blumer, farm claims manager at Grinnell Mutual. "If they hurry they may not exercise caution as they should. If a burned-out bearing starts an equipment fire out in the middle of nowhere, there may not be a way to save it."
Before you go in the field for cutting or baling, check both the forecast and your equipment. The University of Minnesota Extension encourages farmers to monitor weather forecasts to find at least three consecutive days of drying weather. Grinnell Mutual Farm Claims Manager Vicky Hartgers recommends inspecting the equipment you will use.
"Open and check anything you can see. Check the lines, check the belts, and check the safety equipment," said Hartgers.
Transporting and storing hay
Bales vary in size and weight depending on your equipment and your farm's needs. A bale 4 feet by 4 feet could weigh 500 pounds and 5 feet by 5 feet could weigh over 1,000 pounds. Iowa State University Extension Specialist Dan Morrical estimates that large round bales of alfalfa hay made with newer balers could weigh 1,500 pounds.
"Bales fall off during loading. A skid loader can push a bale off the other side of the rack and land on someone who has turned away," said Hartgers. "Bales shift and can fall off when the hayrack hits a dip or a bump in the road. Sometimes the bale can severely injury someone, other times they can walk away."
Because of the size and weight of bales, it is best to work with someone when moving them. Having someone who has experience with hay bales is best, but you can train workers, too.
"Farmers want a young kid loading the hayrack, especially on a hot day," said Hartgers. "If you’re going to hire a high school student to bale hay, find out if he has done it before. You need to take the extra time to explain safety behavior."
The North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) has a set of recommendations for young people who bale hay.
For more information
For more information on how you can prevent accidents on your farm, visit Farm Talk on the Front Porch on grinnellmutual.com.