Heatwave prompts warning to Northamptonshire farmers

Richard Beechener, on-farm adviser atSywell-based Farmers & Mercantile, has given hisadvice to help farmers through the long, dry summer.
Richard Beechener, on-farm adviser atSywell-based Farmers & Mercantile, has given hisadvice to help farmers through the long, dry summer.

The extreme weather conditions experienced across the country should focus farmers minds on safety and continuity, a Northamptonshire-based agricultural insurance broker has said.

In a 28-day period between June and July this year, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) recorded 306 fire incidents, up from 215 for the same period in 2017, and has now dealt with more than 100 grassland, woodland and crop fires since the start of April.

These include a large heathland fire which broke out in Harlestone Firs, Northampton, which required six NFRS pumps, a water bowser and assistance from a farmer to put out.

Grassland, pasture or grazing land was involved in 18 incidents, stacked or baled crops totalled four, and straw or stubble burning saw three incidents, highlighting the inherent dangers to farmland and farm property.

Richard Beechener, on-farm adviser at Sywell-based Farmers & Mercantile, has given his advice to help farmers through the long, dry summer.

"Sadly, there have been distressing circumstances of deliberate arson attacks, but straw bales can also become a major fire hazard due to accidental human intervention, such as carelessly discarded bottles or cigarettes," said Mr Beechener.

"The best advice is to not put all straw in one big heap, but separate into smaller, well-spaced heaps.

"Also avoid parking machinery next to straw stacks as they too will be destroyed if the straw is fired.

"Consider carefully where bales are placed. Try and store in more remote areas away from housing, other combustible items, pathways and roads.

"Due to the shortage of straw, and indeed hay, in the drought conditions, values are at a premium, and farmers should also ensure they have suitable cover in case of fire damage or loss.

"Standard stack limits are set at £30,000, but during times of short supply, values will inevitably increase,” added Mr Beechener.

"Farmers should consult with their adviser to ensure sums insured cover the value at risk.”

Farmers are also supplying or sourcing straw from further afield, and transport insurance should be factored in.

“Check your policy is adequate for longer distances and larger values,” said Mr Beechener.

"This is by no means an exhaustive list, and one should always ensure business interruption covers the hire of replacement machinery in the event of any of the above occurrences."