Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn, of rural insurance broker Lycetts, is concerned many farmers in the region are unaware that farm insurance policies stipulate stack and distance limits for haystacks.
With stacks at their most abundant post-harvest, he is calling farmers to check their policy for any restrictions.
Rupert warned that if stack limits are contravened, such as being too close together, too high or undervalued, farmers face significant shortfalls in the event of loss, such as accidental fire or arson.
With the value of hay and straw continuing to be unpredictable due to variable weather conditions, causing the pendulum to swing between shortages and surpluses, farmers could be faced with considerable sums to replace feed, further compounding the financial impact of the loss.
Rupert said: “We saw hay and straw prices peak earlier this year, due to an unfavourable 2020 harvest, but this has seen a gradual downturn in recent months.
“With prices varying so much, it is important that farmers take stock and determine the value of each year’s yield, to ensure that they are sufficiently covered in the event of a claim.
“It is also imperative that farmers find out if there is a haystack limit defined by value rather than volume. If, for example, a stack with £60,000 worth of hay catches fire, there is a strong chance it exceeds the limit. Often there are distance limits written into policies too, which is usually 20 metres, but this can vary."
Rupert also highlighted the critical role of risk management in mitigating the chances of fire occurring – particularly at this time of year, as hay and straw are put into store.
According to DEFRA, there are more than 1,000 fires in agricultural buildings each year, many of which are preventable.
An abundance of combustible materials, threat of arson, ‘hot’ work, risk of electrical faults in buildings and overheating in machinery are just some of the fire risks farmers face daily and the hot spells that have become the norm – even in early autumn – accelerate this risk.