Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Power and Peril

    I always enjoy a visit to Empire Farm Days the first week in August each year. I plan my visit so I can walk up each street of this exhibition and stop at any venue that sparks my interest.  By noon I will have seen about half of the displays and by mid afternoon I will complete my rounds.   Then it will be time to watch some of the field demonstrations.
     As an engineer, I am always examining the mechanisms of the various machines and speculating on the manufacturing processes.   Obviously there are a multitude of processes that include  welding, forging, casting, milling and so on.   One can always ask the question,  How do they do that?
    What struck me this year was the consistently enormous size of many of the machines on display.  The monster sizes tend to be the tractors, combines, and forage harvesters.    Also added to that list would be a specialized liquid manure spreader and large square and round hay balers.    With all the power available, there is a need for tools of equally gigantic size.   That means one will find 6 or more bottom plows and 24 foot or more tillers and rollers.   A far cry from my days on the farm in the 1940's and 50's.
    So we have seen a huge growth in the size of the machinery and the power units associated with them.  Change that has made farming more of a corporate activity than a way of life.  Although some small equipment is still made, it is difficult for a small farmer to compete with large land holdings and dairy herds.    Beyond the power issue, What do the small and large holdings have in common?   Now I get to the issue of peril.
   Farming is a hazardous occupation.   Tractors roll over,  machinery operators can be caught up in the machines and often children are inadvertently injured by their proximity to hazards and their curiosity.   Unfortunately even at the Empire Farm Days the peril of agriculture was tragically emphasized this year when a youngster was injured in a hoof trimming machine.   It is heartening at this time that although his injuries were sever, he seems to be in recovery.  We all hope and pray his recovery will be complete.
    One may ask if there is progress in making farming a safer occupation.  The answer in my opinion is a qualified yes.   All the machines I examined during this years visit had excellent shielding of gears, belts, sprockets and shafts.   All tractors had rollover protective structures.   Panic bars and emergency stops were prominent.  However, with all the mechanical elements for safety in place there are still hazards that related to operator error and bystander peril.   Also, although new machines adhere to higher standards of safe design, there are still thousands of agricultural tractors still in service without roll over protective structures.   Thankfully there is a program to retrofit these tractors supported by the State of New York and operated by the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health out of the Mary Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, NY.  Each year I make it a point to stop by their display to get the latest stats on retrofitting.  
    In conclusion, I consider myself fortunate to have survived the hazards of farming as a lad and to have reached geezer status.
Making Firewood the Easy Way

Liquid Manure Applicator- Nozzles Front, Rear and Sides

Forage Harvester

Six Bottom Plow

Round Bale Wrapping Machine
470 Horsepower - Probably $500,000 

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