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Sep 22, 2014
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July 2014 Archive for 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®.

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

Teaching respect for ATVs: A role for everyone

Jul 18, 2014

"Hop on! I’ll take you there."


Whether it is crossing a ravine, climbing a hill, or traveling down a gravel road, the ATV may be the fastest way to get to a broken fence, stray livestock, or anything else that needs attention on the farm and in the field. Many farmers take the speed and convenience of ATVs for granted.

"Riders don’t give ATVs the respect they deserve," said Glenda Blumer, a farm claims manager at Grinnell Mutual. "It’s second nature to them to get on and do what needs to be done when, in fact, they need to think about the consequences."

Children account for over a third of ATV-related injuries, according to reports from the Childhood Ag Safety Network. Young, inexperienced riders are at risk of injuries or death because ATVs have high centers of gravity and can weigh 800 pounds. Parents can help prevent a tragedy by modeling good riding, talking about riding readiness, and education.

"There are two common reasons for child-ATV injuries," said Marsha Salzwedel, Agricultural Youth Safety Specialist at the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health. "First, the size of rider for the size of machine needs to be considered. No one under age 16 should be on a full size ATV.

"Second, passengers should only be allowed on ATVs that are designed to carry passengers and most are not. Even ATVs designed for passengers are not designed for small children, so ‘giving rides’ on ATVs to small children is a very dangerous practice."

Model good riding

Children learn from the actions and behaviors of their parents—both good and  bad.

"Modeling behavior is easier said than done for farmers because of routines," said Blumer. "The farmer hops on and goes to chase a cow that got out."

Wearing a helmet and using manufacturer-installed safety equipment such as seat belts are two ways older riders can lead by example and demonstrate the respect ATVs require.

One way parents and teens can discuss ATV safety is to cover the Readiness Checklist from the ATV Safety Institute, which offers a series of question for parents and children based on physical and mental development as well as decision-making skills.

If you want a teen to perform work on your farm, the North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks has a set of guidelines and questions for you to use to evaluate your child’s abilities. Cultivate Safety has information for hired teen workers. The ATV Safety Institute also offers riding courses.

For more information

For more tips on how to help prepare teens for success on ATVs, visit the ATV Safety Institute. For more information on how you can prevent accidents on your farm, visit Farm Talk on the Front Porch on grinnellmutual.com

Reentry motorcycle riders start on the right foot with a rider course

Jul 15, 2014

Take the memories of riding a motorcycle from your younger days. Mix in some disposable income, some new-found free time, and an opportunity to ride again. What would you call this?

"Some people call it a mid-life crisis. We like to call it reentry," said Pete terHorst, spokesperson for the American Motorcyclist Association.

Often, the reentry rider rode in their teens or twenties, stopped riding because of obligations to his or her family or career, then had motivation to return to riding. Some reentry riders stowed their motorcycles in a shed or the back of a garage. Others were drawn back to riding by family, friends, or a shiny new bike at a dealership.

Learning fundamental riding skills with people like you

"If you haven’t ridden in over a decade, I daresay you’re rusty," said terHorst. "The motorcycling community welcomes back the reentry rider with courses tailored toward these enthusiasts. We know, in many cases, that they already have a motorcycle endorsement on their license. Rider training like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) curriculum helps them hone their skills or, if they never had the skills, to develop them properly in the first place."

In an MSF-approved course, riders learn about the fundamental skills needed for riding through a combination of classroom teaching and riding on a practice range, usually over one weekend. Riders learn key skills including accelerating, braking, cornering, shifting, and lane changes that will help them be confident, able riders on city streets and rural highways.

"Because reentry riders often take the class with people like them, people in their thirties, forties, and fifties who rode in their younger years, it’s a less threatening environment. They renew the pleasures of riding all over again," terHorst said.

Giving reentry riders tools for success

"In a reentry rider course, it’s fun to see riders have those light bulb moments out on a test range," said Matt Williams, senior claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual. He became a riding instructor in 1999. "Some make incremental improvements in their riding, but for others, the changes are dramatic."

An additional benefit of taking a basic rider course for riders who do not have their motorcycle endorsement is that upon successful completion, participants receive a waiver from taking the state written and riding tests.

For more tips on how to enjoy motorcycling and other recreational activities safely, visit the Front Porch blog at grinnellmutual.com.

The cell phone dilemma: Three ways you can help your teen avoid distracted driving

Jul 02, 2014

"Crazy and scary." 

This is how Shannon Arendt, director of personal lines support at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, describes her feelings about her two teenaged children when they get behind the wheel to drive. Cell phones just add more anxiety. 

"I want them to have their cell phones so if they have any issues they can make a call but I don’t want them to be on their phones while they’re driving," said Arendt, who tested her teens when they first learned to drive by calling them while they were driving. "If they would happen to answer, I would remind them they should not be looking at their phones or answering them while driving.

Nearly four out of five teens own a cell phone and over one-third own a smartphone, according to research from the Pew Research Internet Project. Three-quarters of teens text and the typical teen texts 60 times a day.

"Some teens get so engaged with their smartphones they feel they can’t do anything without them, even driving,"  said Kevin Dowling, assistant vice president for direct claims at Grinnell Mutual who also has two teenage drivers.

Talk with your teens about distracted driving

The combination of inexperience and overconfidence can have serious consequences for many teen drivers. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates that 16 percent of all distracted driving crashes involve drivers under 20. In addition, teenage drivers have the highest proportion of fatal crashes tied to distracted driving.Inexperience causes three-quarters of serious accidents for teens, according to analysis by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute.

Grinnell Mutual recommends the following to help prevent crashes and help your teens be better, safer drivers:

1. Model good driving. 

Children imitate their parents, even at the earliest ages. With this in mind, the National Safety Council recommends setting a good example for your children whenever you are behind the wheel. Model good driving behaviors such as using turn signals, wearing seat belts, and avoiding distractions.

"It’s so easy for a parent to answer that phone when they are going down the road," said Arendt. "Your kids will think that is okay, too. The good things or the bad things, kids do pick up on them."

2. Discuss driving expectations. 

The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends setting expectations for your teens about distracted driving. As they meet expectations, reward them with new privileges. The NSC’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement is one tool you and your teens can use to have conversations about expectations and rewards.

"When my teens were first learning to drive at 14, their eyes were focused on the road. I helped them with the things they may not see on their own," said Arendt. "Now I remind my teens to pay attention because you don’t always know what’s going to happen. Even though you drive the same road, it is different every day."

3. Practice driving with them. 

Practicing driving is a skill many teens value, yet research National Young Driver Survey reveals that only 15 percent of teens consider their peers to be inexperienced. By riding with your teen, you may help them gain the experience and confidence they need in a variety of driving situations. Many states also require supervised driving time as part of a graduated driver’s license (GDL). (View your state’s license requirements.)

Lessons for the road, lessons for life

The lessons parents teach in the car about distracted driving can also be lessons for life. 

"As a parent, I give our children positive affirmation about their driving abilities, while helping them understand the numerous risks," said Dowling. "To be successful at whatever you do, there is often an element of avoiding the distractions. As parents, we have to help them identify those distractions and help guide them, especially when it comes to driving." 

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