While the snow was slow to arrive (just this morning), the rest of winter is here! Our temperatures have reached some unseasonably warm heights, but we’ve also seen 8 degrees below zero. That’s cold! And the absence of a thick, insulating blanket of snow can complicate matters.
To combat the frigid temps, we’ve outfitted the farm to make it more hospitable for man and beast. Our wood furnaces and stoves that heat our homes and outbuildings are stoked, so maintaining the wood supply is a priority. Our new firewood processing unit has made it much easier this year, giving our chainsaws and backs a rest. Places such as our milk house and parlor that are kept warm from the ambient heat of compressors working to chill our milk, are now supplemented with heaters. Lined work boots and gloves, and thick, quilted coveralls (think adult-sized snowsuits!) are the order of the day, especially while doing chores during the darker hours of morning and evening when the cold is raw and the wind can bite.
The animals also receive special attention. We’ve erected wind breaks on the open barns to reduce the chill. Food rations – especially hay and nutrient-rich corn silage – are upped to compensate for their increased caloric intake needs during the colder months. You’d be surprised how much energy it takes just to stay warm, let alone produce milk! Calves are outfitted with blankets and nestled snug in their specially designed “igloo” hutches in our covered nursery.
The cold can do a number on our equipment, as well. Specially formulated diesel fuel is used to help prevent gelling. Our skid steers and bucket tractor used during the daily chore routines are stored in our shop. The 50 degree heat in there helps keep the engines warm, the fuel fluid, and the battery happy. Other equipment such as our larger tractors, corn truck and backhoe are kept under cover with engine block heaters plugged in. Watering equipment likes to freeze, so heaters are installed and closely monitored. There’s nothing worse than battling a frozen waterer in frigid temperatures! Ferrying buckets of water to thirsty cows is laborious and takes time away from other things – like making cheese or regular building and grounds maintenance.
It’s a different landscape this time of year, that’s for sure, but beautiful and rewarding in its own way.