If you’re like most farmers, you like to help out when you visit friend or neighbour’s farm. Helping is great, and often truly appreciated. It can also be dangerous and potentially deadly.
If you’re helping, being a good farm guest requires setting aside what you know of your own farm and listening to your host’s instructions. Grain farming is not the same as beef farming, that one is a “no brainer.” But have you thought about the differences between moving beef and dairy cattle? Riding horses and feedlot horses? What about farms with specific handling practices like low stress? Even if you have a livestock operation you don’t likely handle your animals the same way as your friend. Even your handling equipment may be different.
Beef farming friends who are helping at harvest need to keep in mind the same equipment safety rules that they employ during haying or silage season. All equipment has different safety requirements.
If you’re going to be a good farm guest and want to help out, remember three things: communicate, confirm and continue.
Communicate: Ask what is going to be done. Make sure to share what you are able to do. Communicate about what is being done, and who you’re working with. Ensure you are comfortable with the plan, and let your host know if you’re not.
Confirm: Personal experience has gotten me in the habit of asking guests who wish to help move livestock or even fix fence to confirm what we are each going to be doing. I need to know that they’ll be where I expect them to be, for their safety and mine. On our farm we have an “eyes on safety” rule — the person heading up the animal work or operating the equipment does not start until they have visually confirmed that everyone is where they need to be.
Continue: Farming operations are time sensitive, whether it be harvesting, doctoring animals or even moving equipment. There is, however, a maxim worth remembering: fast is slow, slow is fast. Doing what needs to be done at a safe speed is the fastest way to get it done. It takes much longer to redo a job than to do it right the first time.
Notes for a good host
Make sure at least one person who is familiar with your farm is with your guests at all times. This is not the time to test their knowledge. It may seem silly to have to remind someone to watch out for the back feet of a cow or keep away from a moving auger, but it’s also safe.
Working visits with children are full of potential for fun, great photos and danger. Regardless of their age, visiting children (and your own children) need to be supervised by an adult who’s away from the work. As a parent, I know that in the excitement of playing with friends, my own son can forget our safety rules.
Have a safe play area designated and a responsible adult supervising the children. Make sure no one moves or does any work until they confirm that the children are where they’re supposed to be. Children are curious, fast and small. This makes them difficult to see until they are in the middle of a dangerous situation.
Quick tips for visitor safety:
- Safety first for you and your guests.
- Know where your first aid kits are.
- Visually confirm everyone is safely in position before starting work.
- Communicate what you want to do, what could happen, and Plan B.
- Continue to get the work done.
- Keep the children safely away from where you are working.
- Ensure everyone is wearing the correct gear.
- Put the phones on vibrate or mute — you may think your ringtone rocks but the livestock won’t.
Remember, “safety first”. No one wants a fun farm visit to end in tragedy. †