How to prepare your farm for winter

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How to prepare your farm for winter

Winter isn’t all that exciting for farmers. While your farm’s staff should be putting safety precautions in place all year round, things become more complex over the colder months.

Depending on where your farm is situated, planning ahead in such an uncertain climate is critical for South African farmers. To ensure that everything runs smoothly with your crops, livestock and equipment, take the time to plan your movements to avoid any accidents. Here are some tips for preparing for winter:


Give your livestock shelter

The cold can be tough on your animals, so make sure their living environments are up to standards to avoid any livestock stress which could lead to fatal accidents. It is recommended that you fix any broken fences, feeders or water stands and make sure that the land in which they’re placed is kept dry and sheltered. When the area becomes wet, you could easily be faced with diseases and contamination.


Store your equipment safely

Before the cold months settle in, take the time to do a full service on your farming vehicles to ensure that your machines are well-maintained, ready to use and are easily accessible if need be. While these ‘health checks’ are important, you also need to make sure that your farm has the necessary storage facilities for these items. If you haven’t got the capacity to store all your equipment and tools in safe and sheltered areas, start planning ahead to build an area that can accommodate your equipment. Equipment should not be kept out in the cold, as they need to be kept dry and protected from disaster weather conditions. And if you know that you’re not going to be using a specific tool or machine, consider draining the fuel for further safety.

The winter months can also be used as a maintenance opportunity for you to review your farming operations and change things that you have the ability to change. If you don’t have the machinery and equipment you need to tackle those tasks, there are various agricultural equipment manufacturers in South Africa and surrounds that can help you and guide you on what you might need to perform specific tasks.


Prepare your soil

If you’re farming with crops, start preparing your soil for the winter months. When the sun stops beating down on your crops, it’s the perfect time to feed your soil and give it the nutrients it needs to grow successfully. Keep stocking up on compost as this will help to enrich your soil for future harvests.


Increase food intake for animals

When it’s cold, animals need to consume twice as much food to be able to keep warm and combat stress. Make sure that you start planning ahead to budget for these increased feed costs. If you’re making your own feed, start buying ingredients in bulk to avoid disappointment for when you need it most. These are the deciding months where you’ll be able to maintain good profits from animals, so make sure you feed your cattle accordingly to ensure they have enough energy to keep themselves warm, fit and healthy.


Consider your farm’s mud control

Again, depending on where your farm is situated, you might experience heavy rainfall and even snow which is bound to cause muddy conditions. If not controlled, this can be dangerous for your cattle and crops. Before the cold sets in, start putting a plan in place to control runoff, mud and water wastage. Your irrigation system will also need to be adjusted, and you may need to put in new gutters to help control water flow. Without proper management, mud can get out of control quickly, which is unhealthy for livestock and the environment at large. To avoid accidents, make sure these factors are incorporated into your plan.


Make sure you have consistent water flow

It’s important to remember that if your animals don’t have access to consistent water flow, they will stop eating. Over the colder months, make sure your water flow is under control to prevent water supply from freezing. As the temperature falls, it can be difficult to control such environmental factors, but if you have an insulation plan to keep water warm and pumping, the chances of the water freezing are small.

If conditions are worse than previous years, try and make a plan with neighbouring farms to assist if need be. Luckily, the farming community is extremely helpful and willing, so creating positive relationships in advance could really benefit you, should you need help with your farming operations.


Emergency plans

Although farmers are more prone to experiencing accidents in the summer months, the winter also calls for an emergency plan. Make sure you’ve got flashlights, fire extinguishers, generators, first-aid kits for humans and livestock, emergency contact numbers and additional storage facilities for when things suddenly go South. Be it from wind, storms, floods or more, the winter months can also present some tragic events, so make sure you have a well-thought out-emergency plan for these moments.


Final words

As you can see, there are a number of processes to consider when it comes to preparing your farm for winter. As you can imagine, uncertain weather conditions can put your farming business into a costly, unfortunate position if you don’t have the necessary processes in place to prevent these accidents.

While it may sound concerning, there are also many positive factors about the winter months. More often than not, farming operations tend to slow down over the colder months which gives you the opportunity to work on machinery, animals, crops and plans for the upcoming months.

This is a challenging time for both farm workers and animals, so preparing and planning ahead can make a difference. It’ll put you at ease and make you feel more comfortable about the upcoming winter months.

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