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How to ensure that your farm is prepared for the winter

As the recent snow in the New Zealand's far south showed, Mother Nature can sometimes strike completely unexpectedly. The freezing white stuff fell thick and strong over much of Southland, causing disruption across roads, airports and, of course, farms.

Indeed, cattle farmer Geoffrey Young mentioned that the snow took him and fellow farmers completely by surprise, especially considering that the weather beforehand had been particularly mild. 

"We really only had a smattering on the paddocks but there's probably five-to-10 centimetres out on the hill, depending on what height you get up to," said Mr. Young.

"We were due to go out at seven o'clock this morning straggle-mustering but it was certainly totally inappropriate to go out in those conditions, it was virtual white out conditions," he continued.

Dealing with inclement weather is part and parcel of life on the farm, but there are still certain ways that you can prepare your establishment for the worst. Gearing up for unexpected weather can keep your farm running smoothly and efficiently, meaning that product levels are kept up and you don't lose out on any potential earning should extreme weather strike.

What can winter storms do to your farm? 

Heavy snow and ice accumulation can damage any one of your farm's buildings. From barns to warehouses, not to mention your house itself, weighty ice and snow build-up can cause serious problems to the structural wellbeing of your properties. Heavy snowfall can block entire road systems, rendering them impassable to all but the hardiest of vehicles, which can notably impact the day-to-day running of your operation – especially when you're beginning to run low on fuel.

If you're in the dairy or beef farming game, you have to be in the know with regards to how extreme weather can affect your livestock. Sleet, snow mud and the cold itself can drastically affect your animals in a negative way, so ensuring that you have taken the correct procedures to protect them beforehand can see you reap dividends when tough weather hits. What's more, sheep farmers should take extra care. This is because their animals, due to their smaller size, are often affected by the cold weather far more than larger livestock.

Additionally, sheep are often grazed on much higher ground that is too steep for cattle. This, of course, is where the snow hits first. Also, sheep farmers, can sometimes be caught out by unexpectedly by early snow falls and winter conditions, especially if sheep have only recently been shorn. In worst case scenarios, stock losses can be significant.

Finally, the winds of winter can cause power outages due to the knocking out of pylons and cables. In some remote areas, these can take days to put right.   

So what can you do to ensure that your farm is fully prepared to take on the might of even the strongest winter storm?

Inclement weather is part and parcel of life on the farm, but there are still certain ways that you prepare your establishment for the worst. Gearing up for unexpected weather can keep your farm running smoothly and efficiently.

Preparing your farm for winter

The act of 'winterising' your farm buildings may seem something of an unnecessary expense, but come the winter, you'll be thanking your lucky stars that you did, as you could save thousands in the long run.

Install storm shutters on the doors and windows on each of your important buildings, especially ones containing livestock and farming gear. This will ensure that New Zealand's gale force winds and possible snow will be kept safely outside, as well as protecting the doors and windows themselves. It's also worth attaching caulk and weatherstrips for an extra measure of protection.

Before winter commences, have the roofs of all of your farm buildings professionally checked to test their strength. This is to ensure that it can withstand the extra weight that it'll be laden with in the event of heavy snowfall. It goes without saying that you should also have any leaks fixed.

In the eye of a storm  

During a storm itself, it's vital that you keep yourself as informed possible. This means listening in to the local news and weather to keep up-to-date with the situation – you can learn of road closures and suchlike this way.

Keeping yourself safe and warm should be an absolute priority. Alongside staying in the sturdiest shelter possible, you should also be stocked up with a torch, extra blankets and food supplies. If you find yourself outside in the midst of a big one, try your best to get out the way of the wind, keep dry and wear the warmest all weather clothing possible – the Line 7 Territory range should do the trick! 

Heavy snow can heavily hinder the day-to-day running of your farm.