The Met Office has issued an unprecedented red heat warning, forecasting temperatures will build this weekend and into early next week for much of England and Wales.
Temperatures could peak in excess of 35°C in the southeast, and more widely around 32C within the warning area. The hot weather is already causing issues for farmers including fires and also mortality of poultry due to heat stress.
Harvest has started in some parts of the country and extremely dry conditions could make this harvest particularly dangerous. Standing crop fires can start in these tinder dry conditions and we have already seen an increase in the number of field fires across the UK with firefighters tackling field blazes in Yorkshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.
These fires can start through deliberate ignition but also from accidental ignition from sparks created by machinery striking flints, machinery faults and carelessly discarded smoking material.
Field fires can spread very quickly through crops, across field boundaries such as ditches, hedgerows and tracks and into farm buildings and neighbouring properties endangering life. There is also the risk of people in the vicinity being surrounded by flames and smoke or being cut off from a route of safety.
Safety is the primary concern but the potential financial losses for farmers can be significant if crops and or machinery are damaged by fire. Economic pressures as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine and potential grain shortages have driven prices upwards for grain, and red diesel which when adding the costs of machinery, means that the size of a potential claim can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
There are also costs associated with keeping the farm working if machinery is damaged including the hiring of a combine harvester or tractor.
Farmers and agricultural contractors need to pay close attention to risk management as they embark on their harvest operations. this should include regular maintenance of machinery including checking drive belts, bearings, fuel pipes and filters to minimise the risks. Machinery should also be kept free of dust and chaff.
Having the right fire protection equipment in place is essential. Farmers and contractors must ensure fire suppression systems have been checked and are operating correctly. Fire extinguishers must be in working order and accessible, and employees must know where they are and how to operate them. Fire extinguishers carried on board machinery are often overlooked for annual inspections and servicing.
Water bowsers and cultivation equipment should be on standby, ready to assist in extinguishing fires and creating firebreaks in crops to limit the chances of flames spreading. It is important to be aware of the locations of nearby sources of water including ponds, lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
Poultry Heat Stress
During extremely hot and humid weather poultry, predominantly broilers can suffer heat stress.
Heat stress in poultry is a condition that occurs in high temperatures and is exacerbated by high relative humidity and low airspeed. It typically occurs when the birds are near to full grown, i.e., when the sheds are full of larger birds. In simple terms, the birds are too hot and if this is not addressed quickly, mortality can occur. Temperatures can usually be kept to an appropriate level in the poultry houses by the operation of artificial ventilation, but, during high external temperatures, the ventilation system sometimes cannot keep the temperature inside the shed at a level that the birds require.
Many birds simply die. Some may survive but may not reach their expected weight, causing an Income/Gross Profit loss.
Crawford has the relevant skills and services in place to quickly respond to any agricultural claims relating to this heatwave, including our unique crop fire drone service, and our poultry specialists. Finally, and in view of increasing inflation, we would recommend that brokers undertake regular reviews of their clients’ business interruption coverage to ensure they have the correct level of cover in place, should a loss occur.