After a couple of years of relatively mild winters, Mother Nature has struck back with a vengeance. Not only have the storms been numerous, it’s been downright cold in most of the region.
And it’s made farm work ever the more dangerous.
Late last month, an Otsego County, N.Y., dairy farmer with five young children was killed when he became entangled in a mechanized corn chopper.
According to The Daily Star newspaper, frigid weather played a role in the accident as the victim, Daniel Banks, 40, was attempting to free a frozen power take-off attached to the corn chopper when the device engaged and his clothing got wrapped around the moving part.
Authorities believe the farmer died of blunt force trauma to the upper body.
Bill Gibson, a veteran farmer and ag educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schoharie and Otsego counties, said in The Daily Star article that Banks was a dedicated farmer and family man.
“He was a hardworking man, just trying to make a go of it on the farm they utilized,” Gibson said. “They were trying to have enough production in these tough times to pay the bills. It’s a lot of work. This is truly a tragic event.”
Gibson also said the cold weather increases hazards for farmers since it causes machines to freeze up, creates patches of ice and leaves the ground rutty, creating tripping hazards.
The cold weather can also lead to increased fire hazards on farms.
A Jan. 27 fire in Easton, N.Y., believed to be electrical in nature, killed 45 calves. On Jan. 3 in Hartford, N.Y., firefighters had to battle negative 22 degree temperatures to bring a fire under control. Three calves died in the fire at the Tyler family dairy. A large heifer and hay barn was destroyed.
With the snow piling up on barn roofs as a result of the numerous storms — another snowfall is forecast for Sunday and Monday — collapsing roofs also present a danger.
On Dec. 19, the weight of 10 days of snow caused a barn roof to collapse on a dairy farm in Talcottville, N.Y. No one was injured, but officials in Lewis County have urged farmers to shovel snow off roofs and sheds.
Farmers are a hardy bunch, and with good reason. At the same time, in these tough winter conditions, we all need to remember to keep safety front and center.
Many farms have sloping fields, ditches and other land features that even on a nice clear day can make driving a tractor a tricky endeavor. Add some snow and ice to the mix, and it can make going through that same field even more dangerous.
I envy people who are able to ride a snowmobile through the countryside in the snow. At the same time, this can be dangerous if traveling at a high speed. So use some caution here, too.
As tempting as it might be to get out and get some work done, even in the middle of winter, ask yourself: Is it worth possibly getting hurt to make ends meet?