As nights get longer and temperatures drop it’s time to make sure your farm, and farmhouse are prepared to meet winter’s perils.

It’s impossible to predict whether this winter will bring snow, ice, gales or floods – or all four. But whatever winter brings to Scotland, preparation can reduce damage to farm buildings and homes.

“Because our climate is so unpredictable, we’re often caught out when we get heavy snow, floods and wind storms,” said NFU Mutual’s Tim Price. “While last winter was long and cold, with significant snowfall in many parts of Scotland, it caused a fraction of the damage to farm buildings as 2010’s intense and prolonged spells of sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow which led to hundreds of farm building roofs collapsing and dozens of claims for burst pipe damage in homes and commercial buildings.

“As a mutual insurer owned and run for our members, our first priority in a serious weather event such as storm, flood or heavy snow is to help customers who have suffered damage to their property. We use detailed weather forecast modelling to predict when and where severe will hit so we can direct our claims teams to the worst-affected areas.

“Because they are usually situated in exposed locations with few neighbouring buildings to protect them from wind and frost, farm buildings and farm houses buildings can be particularly vulnerable to storm and snow damage.”

If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to do a pre-winter check of your home and outbuildings before winter sets in. And while you’re at it, it’s well worthwhile making sure your home, sheds and outbuildings are well secured to keep out thieves – as well as the weather.

Farm fires are still one of the greatest hazards to the lives of farmers, workers and livestock on farms making regular maintenance of wiring and checks on extinguishers a high priority.

NFU Mutual’s claims statistics reveal that the cost of farm fire claims across the UK rose by an alarming 26% to £44m in 2016. The most common cause of farm fires was electrical faults, which were responsible for almost half of 2016 fire claims, according to the insurer. Arson was the next most common cause.

“The first priority if a fire breaks out is to ensure people and livestock are safe,” said Tim. “However, with training and the right sort of fire extinguishers in place it is often possible for farmers to tackle a small fire and prevent it turning into a major blaze without putting themselves at risk.”

Based on over a century’s experience dealing with farmers’ claims, NFU Mutual, has complied a winter building maintenance checklist to help farmers prepare for whatever our unpredictable climate serves up this winter.

Farm building and home maintenance checklist:


Check that tiles, slates, and roofing sheets are in place and secure

Plan evacuation routes to get staff and livestock out of buildings safely in the event of fire, food or roof collapse

Make sure gutters are not leaking and are clear of leafs and other debris

Ensure chimneys are regularly swept and that wood burning stoves function properly, especially in thatched properties

If you have installed extra insulation in your lofts put plenty of extra lagging around your water pipes

Make sure water pipes in vulnerable areas are protected with lagging at least 5cm in diameter

Fire prevention:

Ensure there are sufficient fire extinguishers for the size of buildings and that materials stored are inspected and regularly maintained

Ensure staff and adult family members know the location of fire extinguishers and how to use them

Reduce the risk of arson by fencing-off straw stacks and farm buildings

Store hay and straw at least 10m from other buildings

Put in place an evacuation plan for staff and livestock

Store petrol, diesel and other fuels in secure areas

Schedule regular electrical safety checks

Invite your local fire and rescue service to visit to check water supplies and access routes

If a fire breaks out call the fire and rescue service without delay and if possible, send someone to the farm entrance to direct them to the fire to help save time. Prepare to evacuate livestock should the fire spread. Prepare to use your farm machinery to assist the Fire and Rescue Service


Use SmartWater to mark valuable possessions

Fit and use heavy-duty padlocks on farm yard gates and buildings

Keep vehicles and tools secure and out of sight

Consider outside security lighting and CCTV

In addition to providing insurance to cover buildings, equipment and stored produce from fire, NFU Mutual also provides consequential loss insurance to keep an income flowing after an insured disaster. It has a network of 27 local NFU/NFU Mutual branch offices across Scotland. For further information, visit