Make hay – not fire – while the sun shines

Spring is the time of year when farmers start clapping their hands and hitting the bonnets of their tractors.  But what on earth are they up to? Simple; they’re trying to get birds out of their tractors, writes Jane Marsick, NZI’s Rural Insurance Manager.

Every year without fail, the season brings with it a rash of tractor fires on farms.  For the benefit of our city readers, here’s how it works:

Spring = birds = birds make nests = tractors make hay = hay is neat stuff to make nests out of = tractor engines have lots of nice dark recesses in which to build nests = birds build nests in tractors = tractor engine overheats = fire.  Not a happy equation.

An NZI customer's claim for their standard size tractor that caught on fire on their farm.

A photo from a claim by an NZI customer whose standard size farm tractor caught fire.

This season is just as busy for Kiwi farmers as it is for insurers.  Not only is Mother Nature busy making her presence felt by putting the finishing touches to winter – there were three major nationwide storms in September alone – but she’s also getting frisky just as farmers want to get out and about on their farm.

Fire is a big deal on a farm.  Hay is being made, fields are being ploughed and seeds are being planted ready for the year ahead.  Tractors are needed for all this preparation and even if an insurance policy covers Loss of Use (NZI’s Rural Commercial Vehicle policy offers this benefit), most farmers would rather carry on working than deal with the disruption.  After all there’s always so much to be done on the farm.

So here’s some risk management advice to help Kiwi farmers prevent tractor fires and avoid interruption.  All of it is based on our customers’ real-life experiences as recorded by our claims teams.

• Keep making noise.  Not every tractor fire is started by a bird, but many are. So make noise to keep birds out of tractors and barns and be sure to visually inspect your equipment before you use it just in case a sparrow has snuck in and made a nest.

• Clean tractors, harvesters and any agricultural equipment after use. High pressure hoses are good for this. Crack open the bonnet and clean the engine area. Heavy use of equipment at this time can coat the engine in chaff and grime, a build up of which can cause the engine to overheat and catch fire. We see this as often as we see birds’ nests cause a blaze.

• Allow equipment to cool down before storing it in your barn overnight. If a tractor is lost it disrupts the farm, but it can be devastating if a fire spreads to the barn, stored animal feed, tools or other equipment or vehicles.

Spring is the best season in the year, here’s hoping it’s also a fire free one down on the farm.  Read more about the Rural Insurance NZI offers here:

About Jane
Jane Marsick is an ANZIIF Fellow and has worked in the insurance industry for 17 years. She is currently NZI’s Rural Insurance Manager.

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