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Sep 16, 2014
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Farm Talk on the Front Porch

RSS By: Grinnell Mutual, AgWeb.com

You face risks as you cultivate crops and raise livestock. We’ll share tips, stories and recommendations to help you protect property and prevent costly losses on the farm. It's our Policy of Working Together®.

Finding and fixing hazards at home key to preventing falls for older adults

Aug 28, 2014

One of every three adults 65 and older will have a fall this year. Falls are the leading cause of death for older adults. Falls led to 2.3 million emergency room visits in 2010 for treatment of traumatic brain injuries and hip, arm, leg, and spinal fractures.

Falls cost $30 billion in direct medical costs according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the lasting impact may not be financial but a lingering fear of falling in the minds of those who have suffered a fall. These fears create a slippery slope of less activity, which leads to a greater risk of falling.

Grinnell Mutual recommends making your home a safer place to prevent falls for older adults. Stairs, bathrooms, lighting, and floors are all places you can make simple changes that will keep people safe.

"Take a walkthrough of the home occupied by an elderly person," said Larry Gallagher, director of loss control at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. "Look for potential hazards associated with trips and falls in all areas of the home."

In the bathroom

Poor leg strength is a contributing factor to falls for older adults. A bathroom can be full of obstacles that can lead to a slip, trip, or fall. Consider installing grab bars for showers, tubs, and toilets to help older adults with mobility and balance. Nonslip mats in tubs and showers can also help steady their steps.

Throughout your home

Many people have familiar traffic patterns through their home—just look where the carpet and floorboards are most worn. Are these paths free of books, boxes, shoes, throw rugs, and other clutter?

As you walk through you home, also take note of the lighting. Some older adults may have issues with their eyesight. Replacing lights with higher wattage CFL or LED bulbs may make it easier to see a tripping hazard before it causes an accident.

Also note where you store frequently used items. Do you need a stepstool or chair to reach an item in a closet or cabinet? Chairs and stools can be unstable and unguarded, increasing the risk for a fall. Consider storing items in places that are easier to access.

For more information

For information about preventing accidents in your home, visit Farm Talk on the Front Porch on grinnellmutual.com

Livestock needs space, too

Aug 14, 2014

Humans domesticated livestock thousands of years ago, but the animals raised and bred on farms and ranches are still wild at heart. Knowing how they will behave as you feed, breed, and transport them can help prevent a serious injury to them or to you.


"You can tell when a dog is going to be aggressive," said Amanda Latcham, a farm claims adjuster with Grinnell Mutual. "It’s a different story with farm animals."

Whether it’s on the farm or at a fair, Grinnell Mutual recommends being aware of your surroundings to prevent a kick, bite, or other injury from an animal.

Be aware of your surroundings

Livestock, particularly cattle, have long memories of their experiences, according to the University of Wisconsin extension. For animals, being tame is a learned behavior. When livestock sense danger, they may choose to fight or to get away.

"When you get into an animal’s environment it may not cooperate because it wants out of that situation. I’ve had sheep jump over my shoulder," said Latcham, who owns a sheep farm with her husband and family. "An animal has a mind of its own and does not like to be singled out."

One way to prevent fight or flight is to avoid walking behind animals. Cattle have panoramic vision and their only blind spot is directly behind them. This may help to prevent a cow or horse from kicking you. Just as you don’t want to approach an animal from the rear, don’t turn your back on animals.

"If there’s a bull in the pen and you have your back to him, something could set him off and he will go after you," said Latcham.

At the fair, unfamiliar sights and sounds can make animals more unpredictable.

"They can be a little bit crabby," said Latcham, who has also been active with the Poweshiek County 4-H Fair. "Usually it’s incredibly hot and they just want to be left alone. It’s just a different environment for them. We’ve had sheep jump out and cows and calves get untethered. It's difficult to catch an animal that's been spooked."

Breeding and birthing

During breeding season, male animals tend to display aggressive, territorial behavior.

"Bulls will be bulls, especially during breeding season," said Latcham. "If you have two bulls in a pen or a small feedlot, you know they’re going to fight. They are very territorial. They might knock over a gate, get out, and get into the road. If someone is out there, they might get hurt."

Female livestock also experience hormone changes. During calving time hormones can cause the mothers of newborn animals to be protective and aggressive.

"I know not to go near a cow right after a she has a calf because she’s not going to be very nice. If I tried to pet the new calf, she could head butt or kick me," said Latcham. "Some of our ewes will be mean no matter what I do. I leave them alone and give them distance while they’re lambing."

For more information

Visit Farm Talk on the Front Porch on grinnellmutual.com for more farm safety tips.

Get back to school safely

Aug 11, 2014

Over 50 million children will attend schools across the United States this school year and all of us can play a role in getting them there safely. Grinnell Mutual recommends the following tips for sharing the road with children during this school year.

By bus

In 1939, Nebraska native Frank Cyr led an effort to standardize school transportation, which created the familiar yellow school bus. That commitment to student safety continues to pay dividends. Today, students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends according to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For students, the most dangerous part of the bus ride is getting on and off of the bus. One way you can make it safer for children is by stopping for a stopped bus. School buses have flashing lights and a stop sign arm to let you know when students board or exit a bus. Depending on your state’s traffic laws, passing a stopped bus may earn you a ticket. (View a state-by-state listing of school bus traffic laws.)

By car

Teens may drive themselves to school or  ride with a sibling or friend. Inexperience, overconfidence, and the distractions that come from peer passengers could lead to a tragedy. Teens behind the wheel and their peer passengers are the leading cause of death for 15 to 19-year-olds according to reports from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. Two or more peer passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash with a teen at the wheel.

Teens can help themselves prevent an accident with these tips:

  1. Get rest. Teens that get at least eight hours of sleep are less likely to have an accident than those who don’t, according to analysis by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute.
  2. Listen to their parents. Teens follow the examples set by parents, so model good driving, discuss driving expectations, and practice driving with them. (Read more about how you can help your teen avoid distracted driving.) 
  3. Focus on the road. Because of their inexperience, teens need to give their full attention to driving. Over 20 percent of teen drivers in crashes reported that there was an in-car distraction just before an accident, according to analysis by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute.

On foot

Children who walk to school should stay on sidewalks and paths and cross at street corners. Over three-quarters of child pedestrian deaths occurred away from intersections according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It’s likely that a part of a child’s journey to school will be on foot. Teach children to look left, right, and left again before crossing the street. If they see a car approaching, they should make eye contact with the driver before crossing the street. Children should never enter a street from between parked cars.

For more information

For information about safety for children, visit Farm Talk on the Front Porch on grinnellmutual.com



Anglers and landowners work together to fish farm ponds

Aug 07, 2014

Farm ponds are good for the land and good for the soul. Many people fish to relax and to connect with the outdoors. Farm ponds can provide water for livestock and gardens, prevent soil erosion and runoff. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources estimates that Iowa farm ponds host 1.6 million visits by licensed anglers each year.

If you fish a farm pond

Farm ponds provide great fishing experiences whether you fish for food, sport, or relaxation. They are on private property so it’s best to have the permission of the owners before you fish on their land. Courtesy can pay dividends.

"The biggest thing you can do is to build that relationship with the land owner and get permission," said Jeff Walker, manager of commercial lines products and procedures at Grinnell Mutual. "I would never step on somebody’s property without explicit permission to be there. It’s their option to say yes or no. I still go and knock on the door every time until the pond owner tells me I don’t need to ask permission anymore."

"If you’re a long-time resident of the area where you are fishing, you probably have a connection with the landowner," said Terry Hintz, senior claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual.

"The owner may be a friend of a friend. You can go knocking on doors to find out who owns the pond so you can get permission. If you grew up in the area where you want to fish, you probably know the owner of the pond."

If you own a farm pond

The pond and the land are your property. Proper signage can help make clear to visitors—invited or not—that they are on private property.

"Even if you allow people to fish the pond, you should still post a ‘no trespassing’ sign," said Hintz. "I’ve had bad experiences with people trespassing. Shirtless guys with a case of beer, people set up in our yard with blankets, picnic basket, and a dog. It’s my yard, not a public park."

When people fish in your pond, be sure to let them know whether they should keep the fish or catch and release.

"Sometimes a pond is overloaded with too many crappie or bluegill," said Hintz. "You may want some taken out. Confirm how many fish you want them to take."

For more information

For information about maintaining and stocking your farm pond, visit the Iowa DNR. For more tips on enjoying the outdoors, visit Farm Talk on the Front Porch on grinnellmutual.com

Teamwork—the key to making hay bales

Jul 25, 2014

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

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