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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cold Weather Farming

This post is mainly for my non-farm readers.  Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.  On the farm, you mostly live with what you get.

Winter weather is a mixed blessing.  Farmers who plant winter wheat like to have some snow.  The moisture is welcome and the snow insulates the crop from the cold.

Cold is not a bad thing either.  We think it can reduce disease pressures, and some freeze thaw action can help with compaction.

Having livestock outdoors in winter weather is a challenge.  This article talks about how pigs can endure the cold.  European breeds of cattle are also capable of withstanding cold weather.  The challenge is getting them food and water.   The October blizzard in the Great Plains caused a good deal of loss.  It looks like some of it was because the animals were buried in snow.  .  I would guess that many of them die from lack of water more than from the cold.  Young animals can be vulnerable to cold more than mature animals.  I can remember calves that had misshapen ears because of frostbite.  Wind protection is a must for livestock.  Additional feed will help the aniimals maintain body tempertures at safe levels.  The wind chills affect them the same way as it affects us.  Additional information on winter cattle management is in this North Dakota State University publication. 

Water is the big challenge in the winter.  It is very important to keep water above freezing so animals can stay hydrated.  We had heaters in water tanks and buckets that work.  Keeping pipes thawed is just as important.  Freezing breaks pipes and creates a muddy and or frozen mess. 

Judy Graff documents adventures from the recent blizzard.  This blog talks about taking care of animals in the winter.  Here is an interesting article about what farmers do in winter

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