With more and more cattle now housed, farmers should be taking steps to ensure that machinery, yards and sheds are ready for winter.

Weather is becoming more changeable and, in some parts of the country, there has been a touch of frost in the mornings.

Taking steps to winter-proof your farm setup is time well spent.

There is nothing worse than putting the job off, only to get caught out some morning with a machine that won’t start or a burst water pipe.

Outlined are five ways to winter-proof your farm.

1. Service the telehandler or tractor and loader

When you head out to the yard to feed cattle, you want machinery to be in working order. Tractors and telehandlers should start on the turn of the key.

Service such machines now, ensuring batteries are good and charging properly, as well as coolant/anti-freeze fluids are topped up.

Other things to check over are wear marks on hydraulic hoses, external work lights are working and that the shear grab is sharp, as are knives in the diet feeder.

2. Lagging exposed water pipes

If there is any exposed water piping in sheds, it is worthwhile using some form of lagging to insulate pipes from frost, especially pipes that provide drinking water.

Leaking pipes should be fixed before heavy frost becomes a more common occurrence.

3. Internal and external lights

Replacing older tungsten and fluorescent light bulbs with low-energy LED bulbs can help to reduce the electricity bill this winter. LED bulbs will also improve visibility in cattle sheds.

On farms where cattle are fed at night, make sure that external work lights on sheds are up to the job.

Good lights are important to illuminate the silage clamp, especially when it is necessary to climb on the clamp to remove the cover.

4. Spare parts

All too often, a machine breaks down or a pipe bursts on a weekend when your local dealer or merchant is closed.

It is always worthwhile purchasing a few spare parts that are commonly used during winter. These include a roll of water piping, fittings for water troughs, light bulbs, hydraulic hoses, jubilee clips, etc.

A good battery charger and jump leads are always worth having to hand for those occasions when a machine needs a boost to start.

5. Vermin control

Farmyards can be a haven for vermin during the winter. Rats can have a new litter every seven to eight weeks, so getting on top of vermin early is crucial.

Ideally, feed should be stored in a covered bin, but this is not always an option. Bulk bags should be kept closed and covered. Keep storage sheds clear of clutter that can provide cover for vermin.

Vermin control is only effective if pests do not have feed alternatives. Waste feed should be disposed of properly, not left lying on the ground providing vermin with ad-lib access.

Remember to use some form of vermin control in machinery such as the baler and combine, once they have been cleaned down with an airline to remove any remnants of grain.

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