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Grants spur safeguards

Christina Winch traded her life as a vo-ag instructor 11 years ago for the life of a Fennimore, Wisconsin, dairy producer. She and husband Peter grow corn and alfalfa hay and rotationally graze 180 cows on 405 acres. Their most precious crop is their three sons: Randy, 9; Wes, 7; and Matt, 5.

When Christina read about a chance at a $2,500 Operation FarmSafe Grant in Successful Farming magazine, she seized the opportunity.

“We talk safety to our sons,” she wrote in her grant application. “It would be nice to practice what we preach.”

Thanks to a Certified Safe Farm (CSF) review and safety fixes made possible by the grant (both funded by Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance), the Winches are closer to achieving their safety objectives.

“Part of our land is only accessible from a state highway, so when we're making hay, hauling manure, or chopping silage, we spend a fair amount of time on the road on our equipment,” Christina says.

Their house is located a quarter mile up a lane from the barn, so the boys often stay at the work site if both parents are there.

LaMar Grafft, rural safety and health specialist at Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, conducted the on-site CSF review in early July.

A rollover-protective structure (ROPS) for an IH 706 tractor was the Winches' top priority; it's used to rake hay on their mostly rolling acres.

Finding a ROPS wasn't easy. Christina's uncle, who restores IH tractors, located one in Missouri and picked it up at the Red Power Round-up in Du Quoin, Illinois. Peter met him in Rockford.

“We had to make sure that the used ROPS was IH-certified,” Peter says. The Winches installed it themselves.

Total cost for the ROPS, combined with a new seat and fenders: $2,200.

“We put some of our own money into it because it's so important,” Christina says. They also replaced the SMV emblem and master shield, and they added a mirror.

New equipment lighting and marking were major goals. “If an implement blocks the tractor lights, is wider than a tractor, or extends more than 20 feet behind a tractor, it needs lighting and marking,” Grafft says.

The Winches ordered several SMV signs for $10 to $15 each and two sets of remote-controlled, wireless magnetic lights for $309 each (866/889-8386, One set is used on a round bale trailer, but it can be moved to other implements and wagons without any tools. “These lights are a smart investment for farmers,” Christina says.

They followed Grafft's suggestion to mark the flow direction on all of their hydraulic lines. “We used colored electrical tape, and the kids got involved with cutting the tape,” Christina says.

They also blocked bin ladders to discourage kids' climbing. “It's simple to cut a piece of plywood slightly wider than the ladder, mount hooks toward the top, and hang it on the ladder,” Grafft says. “A hole near the bottom provides an easy way to latch the board in place.”

Inside the feeding barn, the Winches mounted a new wall ladder by the tub grinder and added a chain. “The chain is spring-loaded so if the skid loader bumps it, it won't rip off of the wall,” Peter says.

A 5-gallon bucket was an unsafe substitute for steps into the milking area. “One of the boys was showing us how it worked, and as we watched, the bucket tipped over,” Grafft says. The Winches replaced the bucket with two metal steps.

They also ordered two first aid kits for $40, plus shipping and handling, from the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety in Peosta, Iowa (888/844-6322,

The CSF review was eye-opening. “I grew up on a farm and never thought about some of the hazards,” Christina says. “But many of these were very simple and inexpensive to correct.”


Underground Operation

Out of sight, out of mind can be a very good thing – at least when it comes to overhead electric utility wires on the farm.

Larry and Susan Castle operate a 100-head cow-calf operation and farm 1,000 acres of corn, dryland corn and wheat, alfalfa, and cane near Imperial, Nebraska.

When Susan read about the grant in Successful Farming magazine, she decided it was time to take steps to improve safety for her family, which includes two daughters: Mindy, a high school freshman, and Dawn, who is in junior high school.

Susan works full time as a lab technician. “Since I work at the hospital, I see all sorts of farm accidents and how easily they can happen,” she says.

She was especially concerned about eight low-hanging overhead electrical lines. “When I get called out during stormy weather, I just cringe going outside under those swaying lines,” she says. “Our daughters walk beneath the lines twice a day to get on and off the bus.”

Risto Rautiainen, a health and safety specialist at Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, University of Nebraska, Omaha, conducted an on-site Certified Safe Farm review in mid-July. When he saw the eight overhead lines, he underscored their concern.

“Equipment and augers are getting bigger,” he says. “There's also the worry of freezing rain and high winds. The lines are so close to the house. If they fall, they could cause more damage.”

The Rural Electric Association removed the Castles' meter pole from a high-traffic corner of the yard and replaced it with a new one in back of the house near the garden. The REA also took down the power lines used for winter lambing and calving.

The remainder of the job was turned over to an Imperial electric company to dig a trench, bury the existing wires, and energize the new underground wires.

The estimated cost of burying the overhead power lines was $10,000.

“It's a big investment to bury overhead electric utility wires underground, but it's a permanent fix to the situation,” Rautiainen says.

Editor's Note: Find tractor parts, including Farmall ROPS, at

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