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Need help getting unstuck?

Getting stuck is a fine way to ruin any otherwise good day on the farm. The people getting you out -- whether it's you, someone else on your farm, or a neighbor down the road -- may not always be the most experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to digging out a tractor, sprayer, or other big machine buried up to its axles.

"Everyone's pulled out stuck equipment, and maybe it's always worked. But just because you can doesn't mean you should," says Purdue University Extension pesticide programs coordinator Fred Whitford, who just helped produce a publication on extracting stuck farm machinery. "You've got to think about whether you have the equipment capable of doing the job and what kind of vehicle you're using to do the pulling. If you don't it can lead to serious injury or death and, if chemicals are involved, possible environmental contamination."

A major issue farmers overlook when extracting stuck machinery is cost. It may be tough to justify spending to have a professional extract your machinery, but in the long run, it's almost always worth the initial expense.

"You might spend several hundred dollars for a professional wrecking service to extract the stuck machinery, but that's nothing compared to losing potentially thousands of dollars if you do it yourself and things go wrong," Whitford says in a university report. "And, of course, you can't put a price tag on someone's life."

Whitford's publication also goes into the key things to look for even before you begin extracting a machine that's stuck.

"There's a chapter where we go into the four zones of extraction and forces of resistance," Whitford says. "There's the stuck zone, where the vehicle to be pulled is located; the tow zone, where the truck or tractor is that's going to do the pulling; the danger zone, which is the hookup between the stuck and pulling vehicles where the stress is concentrated; and the clear zone, where we make sure there are no people near you in the event something breaks. Gathering all this information at the scene takes a couple of minutes and will help us know if we can do the job safely."

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