Christmas card images of winter on the farm often depict a barn roof, farm house and a lone cow beautifully blanketed in snow on a clear day. Winter does create some beautiful images on the farm, however the reality is not always so glamorous. Winter brings a new set of challenges to everyday work on the farm.

Farmers take extra steps during this time of year to make things more comfortable for the cows and people who work on the farm. What are some of the things you do on your farm to prepare for winter?

Some of the winterizing we do on our farm includes;

Pulling down the side curtains in freestall barns so the barn is enclosed and the animals stay warm.

Hanging wind breaks on the alley to protect cows from cold wind on their walk from the barn to the milking parlor.

Closing the vents on the calf hutches to protect calves from the weather.

Draining the water from the mister lines that cool cows in the summer so they don’t expand and crack in freezing temperatures.

Making sure the tractors are serviced by changing the oil and filters and adding antifreeze radiator fluid.

The majority of our milking system equipment is air driven. The moisture in the air can freeze the air lines causing the equipment to stop working. So it’s necessary to add air antifreeze lubricant to the lines so they won’t freeze during cold winter days.

Share with others how your dairy farm operates 365 days each year. On our farm, the animals are feed, milked and cared for daily. Bedding needs to be replaced, barns must be scraped clean, animal health monitored, equipment serviced and so on. The cows aren’t concerned if it’s Christmas day or bad weather; they expect and receive the same care everyday of the year.

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Comment by Mary Faust on December 22, 2011 at 10:47am

We have had such a mild winter in MN with next to no snow other than a little fluff hear and there. It has saved on the check book, but it makes us nervous for what spring will be like. The milk cows are doing great, they are on a bedding pack outside with cornstalk bale wind breaks. It is amazing how the cows love the cold weather as long as you keep the wind off of them.

Comment by Betsy Fleury on December 21, 2011 at 1:55pm

As expected, winter weather has started to cause problems for us. A few days ago, it got down to 3 degrees, so the silo unloader chain broke. Luckily, we had a spare part so it didn't take too long to fix. However, today a more serious issue occured. The milkhouse drain that leads to our waste water lagoon stopped working. The water was backing up into the milkhouse. It appears that the drain pipe has split somewhere under our milkhouse, since there is water coming out from under the foundation. I'm not sure how this will get fixed. However, we always expect problems like these during the winter, and we just cope with them as best we can.

Comment by Betsy Fleury on December 16, 2011 at 11:44am

Hi Brenda. We farm in Vermont, so we know what it is like to farm in the cold and snowy winter weather. We have a small tie stall herd, so we have to "barn up" the cows and heifers in November, meaning that they are no longer turned out to pasture. We have to make sure our manure pit is completely empty so that there will be enough manure storage for the entire winter. We have to get in 10 trailer loads of shavings into our sawdust bin in order to have enough bedding for the whole winter. (And lately it has been very hard to find a supply of sawdust or shavings! ) We have to make sure that one of our tractors in hooked to our generator and that both are serviced and ready to go in case of power outages. We make sure we have plenty of spare parts on hand for our silo unloader, water bowls, and gutter cleaners. We know that something always breaks on the coldest days of winter. And as you said, we know that the cows will have to be milked and fed twice a day, no matter what the thermometer says. Around here, it can get down to 20 -30 below zero at times, but the chores still must be done to keep the cows kept happy and healthy. However, this is all part of dairying in this part of the country and we still love doing it!

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