Winter Safety on the Farm

When winter rolls around in Wisconsin, the changing weather can bring new challenges, especially for the agriculture industry. Wisconsin winters can take a toll on us physically but also on buildings, equipment and livestock. Safety on the farm is a top priority in the new season as well as being proactive to avoid the potential damages winter can bring.

Farm Winterization Tips

Protect Farm Buildings

Farm buildings have changed over the years, growing larger today than they used to be. Snow loads are always a concern as we prepare for accumulating snow over the winter. Be proactive in fall and check the condition of buildings before winter to see if any improvements need to be made.

How much snow can a roof withhold?

It’s best to consult a building engineer who can tell you how much weight per square foot your specific structure is rated to hold.

When snow loads start to accumulate, watch for wind drifts that pile up on the peak and weak part of the roof. Check ventilation on the roof to keep it clear from snow so warm air can exhaust and not lead to further damage such as ice or moisture collecting in the building.

How to properly remove snow from a roof

The best way to handle snow loads is by taking a proactive approach ahead of the season. Look for weak trusses, structures that are cracked or anything that has changed to the structure over time.

If you’re removing snow, safety is the main concern to keep in mind. The best way to remove snow from a roof depends on individual building criteria such as how big of span the roof is or how tall the roof is. A roof rake is a great option for lower areas of the roof. When you remove snow from the roof, be mindful where the excess snow falls on the ground if you need to move it out of the way for safety.

Does insurance cover snow loads?

Rural Mutual evaluates coverage based on snow load per building. An individual building assessment determines which buildings can withhold more weight than others. Based on the assessment, an agent will have a conversation with the farmer about their coverage options.

In addition, loss of income is also an important coverage to have in the event of a loss. If you lose income due to dispersing cattle, you may not receive the milk check that you rely on to keep your operation running. Loss of income coverage can help keep your business and family functioning while you replace the building, machinery or cattle.

What to do if a snow load claim happens

  • First, make sure everyone is ok. A building can be replaced, but people are the most important.
  • Notify your agent of the incident to submit a claim. Oftentimes, the agent will come out in person to see what next steps are needed.
    • Start an action plan for any immediate needs.
    • Temporarily fix any damage if needed. Put a tarp over any open structure if you’re able.
    • If there is damage to a farm building that is unusable and has cattle in the building, check with neighboring farms or other local connections to disperse the herd. Find extra space and someone to help milk. Social media is often a great resource to get the word out and ask for help. A proactive tip throughout the year is to maintain an emergency contact list so if a situation does occur, you’re not scrambling in the moment.

Risk to Farm Employees in Winter

It’s imperative that farm operations provide a safe work environment for employees. Walk around the farm and look for areas of concern that are slippery, especially in the winter when snow and ice are present. React promptly to slippery conditions by salting and sanding surfaces for better traction.

Check the direction of downspouts and divert them away from buildings to avoid ice buildup and prevent slippery surfaces which can lead to slips and falls.

Rural Mutual offers a program, Medcor, providing 24/7 access to a nurse hotline to triage injuries. A translator is available in multiple languages to provide guidance on treatment for an injury.

Common Winter Insurance Questions

Q: A rodent chewed up the wiring in my farm machine. Am I covered?

A: Rural Mutual has special coverage that can protect you from this.

Q: Is my combine covered in my neighbor’s shed if he’s not insured with Rural Mutual?

A: If you have proper coverage on your machinery and your neighbor has a collapse claim and their insurance company doesn’t have collapse coverage on the building, collapse coverage is still maintained on your machinery.

Q: If my vehicle falls through the ice when I’m ice fishing, am I covered?

A: If you have comprehensive coverage on the vehicle on your auto policy that went through the ice, you could be covered.

Benefits of working with a Rural Mutual Insurance Agent

One of the benefits of working with Rural Mutual is having an agent and member of Loss Control or Underwriting come to your property and walk your farm with you to discuss the proper coverage on an individual basis.

It’s important to communicate with your agent on an as-needed basis as you have changes throughout the year such as new equipment, sold equipment, changes to farm buildings, etc. In addition, it’s a good idea to sit down with your agent for an annual review to discuss any current or upcoming changes so you can make sure your policy has the most up to date coverage.

From a roof collapse after heavy snowfall, to a vehicle that went through the ice while fishing, you never know what could happen. Reach out to a Rural Mutual agent to be prepared for Wisconsin’s winter.