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Nationwide Roof Snow Loads - Farm Maintenance

How Much Snow is Too Much?

Winter brings about increased challenges on the farm. Snow storms and extreme temperatures often make it more difficult to get supplies, get access to far corners of the farm, and, most importantly, protect the livestock. Excessive and uneven snow loads on barn roofs has been blamed for the collapse of farm buildings, injuries to farm workers, and has even been responsible for killing livestock. Southern States has partnered with Nationwide® Agribusiness Insurance to bring you some helpful information on the importance of having your farm or ranch properly insured, including coverage for snow load.

Heavy snow and fierce winter winds can cause farm buildings to collapse. For this reason, it is vital that your farm be insured for this potential winter peril. What makes snow load so dangerous? Snow load is the downward force on a building's roof caused by the weight of accumulated snow and ice. If the snow load exceeds the weight the structure was built to handle, the roof or the entire building can collapse under the pressure.

During winter storms, farmers need a snow plan. It's important to keep a watchful eye on structures with considerable loads and be ready to move equipment and livestock to an alternate location. But, how do you know when there is too much snow? The University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service provides the following formula:

Calculated Roof Loading (lb/ft2) = Depth (ft) x Density (lb/ft2 /ft depth). The approximate density (lb/ft2 /ft depth) is: light snow = 5-20; packed snow = 20-40; packed snow with ice = 40-58; ice = 58.

For example, a roof with three feet of light snow has an estimated roof load of 60 pounds per square foot (3 ft depth X 20 lb/ft2/ft depth density = 60 lb/ft2). Although this formula offers only a ballpark estimate of snow load, it can provide enough information to indicate a threat for potential problems. Randy Tinker, Risk Management Property Engineer for Nationwide® Agribusiness Insurance Company, says "Wood structures typically will give a warning of imminent failure with audible creaking or visible bowing of rafters." Unfortunately, metal structures may not show any signs of stress or strain before collapsing. Know the roof weight limits for your farm structures, and, if necessary, rebuild or fortify them to withstand extreme snow load conditions.

Snow load catastrophes can often be prevented. As best you can, keep your barns and outbuildings clear of snow, but do not put yourself in harm's way. Create a contingency plan to deal with the snow safely. Always use caution: wear a safety harness and use secure ladders whenever working on a roof. Remove the ice and snow in small, narrow sections along the roof line to keep the load somewhat even as you work. Use a snow rake to avoid damaging the roof. Keep in mind that you don't have to remove all of the accumulation. Leaving a thin layer can actually prevent damage to the roof while most of the snow and ice is cleared away.

Having the appropriate farm insurance coverage can provide peace of mind during a winter snow storm. Make an appointment with your insurance agent to review your policy and make sure that it includes coverage for the replacement cost of roof or building failure due to snow load. Also, verify that the contents of the building, equipment and/or livestock, is also covered.

Special Member Savings

At Southern States ®, we are proud to be a farmer-owned cooperative. Southern States has partnered with Nationwide ® to offer Southern States Cooperative member-producers in North Carolina and Virginia special discounts on farm insurance. In addition to giving you exclusive insurance savings, we're also joining forces to support the cooperative that means so much to you.

Nationwide® Agribusiness is the number 1 insurer of farms in the U.S. and a leading insurer of commercial agribusiness. Go to to find a local agent.

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