This week’s guest commentary comes from Brent Royce, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Experiencing production challenges or caring for livestock with health problems is never easy on the farm. It’s even more difficult when farmers and veterinarians struggle to identify the source of the problem.
Now, more Ontario farmers are becoming aware of an environmental challenge that has a significant impact on animal health – the issue of uncontrolled electricity. Also called “ground current” or “stray voltage,” uncontrolled electricity occurs when there is a constant underground electrical current flowing in the ground or barn. Animals can be exposed to shocks transmitted through barn floors, milking equipment and water bowls. Livestock exposed to uncontrolled electricity may have lower production, stop eating or drinking, or exhibit other odd behavior. Some cases even result in death.
It’s important that Ontario farmers educate themselves on how to recognize the signs of ground current challenges on the farm. That’s why the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is helping to raise awareness about uncontrolled electricity. We belong to a working group of agricultural organizations in Ontario that is looking to identify the severity of the problem, and work with utility companies to address the issue.
The OFA has also launched a series of online videos to help raise awareness about issues such as uncontrolled electricity. OFA’s most recent video, Understanding Uncontrolled Electricity on the Farm, provides background information on the issue, and explains important steps farmers need to take to identify and fix the on-farm problem and where to find help.
For farmers who suspect uncontrolled electricity is at play on their farm, their first phone call needs to be to a licensed electrician. The electrician should visit the farm to test for ground current, and work with the farmer to fix any problems that are within the farm’s electrical system.
Uncontrolled electricity can also come from off–farm sources beyond a farmer’s control, such as the farm’s electricity carrier. If the licensed electrician discovers the problem is from an off-farm source, he or she will work with the farmer to contact the local utility to file a report. A utility representative needs to visit the farm to test for ground current. It is important that farmers document all reports of uncontrolled electricity, so that all parties are aware of the extent of the problem.
The OFA is working with other agricultural organizations and Hydro One to address ground current challenges on Ontario farms. Gaining more control over this and other issues will go a long way in helping to enabling prosperous and sustainable farms.
For more information check out our video on uncontrolled electricity – on our YouTube channel, Ontariofarms, or visit www.ofa.on.ca to learn more about this serious concern.