Remember the last time it was bitterly cold and snowing? Think about how many layers of clothing you or your children had to wear while being outside? Now, imagine yourself as a farmer and not only worrying about the number of layers of clothes that you’re wearing but keeping your animals safe and warm throughout the long winter months as well.
Winter is a symbol of transition on the farm. Harvest is completed and spring planting hasn’t yet arrived. However, there is no room for rest on dairy farms because no matter the temperature, milking occurs every day. Winter means additional challenges and long days ahead to ensure animals are healthy, safe, and warm.
Here are some ways that dairy farmers care for their animals during the winter months.
·Maternal Instincts – Calves are born year-round on dairy farms. Many cows do the best they can to quickly clean and dry their calves off by licking them soon after they are born. If a cow neglects her calf, the farmer will step in and help to dry the calf as soon as possible.
·Fresh, Dry Bedding – calves live and rest on dry, clean bedding year-round. In the cold season however, it is even more important that their bedding stay dry. Many farmers provide extra bedding, like straw, so calves can burrow into it to stay nice and warm.
·Warming Huts or Warming Rooms – Some dairy farms choose to utilize warming huts or even entire rooms dedicated to keeping newborn calves out of the elements until they are dry and a little more stable. Warming huts are enclosed areas and act similar to hair dryers. Warm air is blown onto the calves to quickly dry them off and warm them up.
·Jackets – As soon as calves are dry, farmers will put a jacket on them to keep them warm and dry. The calves are able to walk, run and play while wearing the jacket, just as they would in the summertime.
·Access to fresh water – Even with cooler temperatures, cows drink a lot of water in the winter — up to 30-50 gallons a day. With freezing temperatures, farmers ensure water availability is plentiful and accessible. Some farms have water warmers installed to help eliminate frozen water troughs and ice formations.
·Continuous feed supply – Due to a cow’s increased metabolism during the colder months, an adequate feed supply allows cows to generate natural warmth. Accounting for the need for more energy in the feed, often farmers will alter their rations during the winter.
·Moisturizing udder balm – Similar to the chapped lips that people get, udders may also get chapped, so farmers apply a moisturizing udder balm for preventative measure typically during milking. The balm moisturizes, soothes, and protects the udder.
Farmers can’t control Mother Nature, but they can control how to react to the conditions that are given to them. So, the next time you’re bundled up to play in the snow or curled up in your flannel sheets, take a moment and remember the extra-long hours that your neighboring dairy farmer is working every day to make sure his or her cows are tucked in nice and warm each night.