Dairy Risk Management: Ensuring Year-Round Safety for Farms and Farmers

Food & Agribusiness, Property & Casualty, Risk

While consumers enjoy dairy products, our nation’s farmers work tirelessly to maintain their farms and care for their cows. On the farm, one chore rolls into the next: pre-dawn milking, mid-morning feeding, caring for calves, fixing machinery, milking again, and seasonal tasks like planting crops or baling hay. 

Many farmers practice the adage, “A change is as good as a rest.” (For example, if you’re tired of fixing fences, go cut some weeds.)  However, this isn’t solid advice – a simple change in activity isn’t a great anecdote for fatigue. And, working when you’re worn out can lead to more than just exhaustion; it can lead to serious injury. 

The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) checklist can help farmers recognize the signs of fatigue and its impact on their safety.  According to UMASH, operating machinery when you’re sleep deprived can be as dangerous as operating machinery under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

As the spring workload and longer daylight hours extend workdays into work nights, fatigue and tiredness is inevitable. Now is the time to recognize fatigue as a potential source of injury and plan ahead. Consider the few quick reminders that follow, not only during June dairy month but all year long.

Machinery Checklist

Use the right equipment for the right job. Wrong equipment or broken equipment doesn’t operate efficiently likely causing more labor (thus fatigue) for you.  Work smarter not harder. 

  • Make sure all machinery guards and tractor rollover protection devices are in place and functioning properly.
  • Ensure all operators have proper safety training for the farm equipment.
    • Take advantage of available resources from both your insurance broker and your state’s extension offices1 – offering relevant training sessions
  • Remind your team (and yourself) of the correct procedures for safely entering and exiting tractors:
    • Always maintain three (3) points of contact
    • two (2) hands and
    • one (1) foot OR two feet one (1) hand
  • Verify that all lights are operational, and all reflectors are in place and clean. 

Address Root Causes of Fatigue:

Nothing can replace a good night’s sleep and a healthy diet but taking brief rest periods (micro-breaks) during the day can help you put in a good – and injury free — day’s work. 

  • Determine the source of your fatigue – stress, illness, sleep deprivation, etc. – and take steps to address it directly. 
  • Eat well and stay hydrated.
  • Throughout the day, give yourself permission to slow down and “take a breather.”  

1 State’s extension offices: Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan

Back to Insight Center