With the onset of winter it’s really time to get your house or, more appropriately, housing in order.

Repairs to farm buildings are often left until a quiet spell in the farming calendar but, given the reduction in staffing across the sector, that can be a rare thing these days.

Even so winter usually highlights where maintenance and repairs are most needed whether it be a leaking roof, broken gutter or slippery floor.

Either way, action needs to be taken.

The Health & Safety Executive is mindful that repair work to buildings can be as hazardous as any farm activity and risks are usually exacerbated in winter weather.

Damp surfaces tend to be more slippery and water and electricity never make good partners.

Remember, play it safe.

It is also worth remembering as an employer there is a duty of care not only to farm staff undertaking repairs but also to visitors/contractors to farm premises.

Access to buildings may require use of specialist equipment such as access cages and crawling boards for reaching and bridging roof areas.

Fortunately, both are widely available from plant and tool hire centres at little cost.

The abundance of suppliers offering building materials, in particular roofing or cladding sheets, timber and fixings listed under Livestock Equipment in Marketplace) should also ensure building repairs can be completed without rocking the farm’s financial foundations.

Although the sharp rise in new steel costs early in 2005 saw production costs rise – caused principally by a surge in demand from Asia – the market has steadied.

Box profile and corrugated sheeting – still the most widely used material, according to suppliers – can be sourced from 1/foot depending on quantity and quality required.

Other materials have also recovered to pre-2005 prices, report suppliers.

Last Boxing Day’s Asian tsunami was blamed for limiting the supply of South American plywood heading into Europe as rebuilding operations got under way.

That saw UK stocks slip and prices climb.

Now, standard 18mm supplies are now back to about 14 apiece depending on quantity purchased, say stockists.

The availability of other materials such as railway sleepers, crash barriers, poles and treated timber has also recovered to near normal levels after surges in demand driven by recent crises in farming, say suppliers.

It’s worth remembering that depending on what stock or produce is housed, a modest investment in building repairs can limit losses incurred where stock is left exposed to winter weather.