Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Winter vs. Cows
A frosty look at the farm...pretty to look at, hard to work in.
Well, winter is here. It was inevitable. Forecasts call for even colder temperature for the weekend (Sunday might not even make it above 0!). Cold is usually harder on the people working with our cows than the actual cows. We work hard to prevent any problems the cows might have with the cold.
First we provide them shelter from the snow, cold, wind, and moisture. Our barns are made to be cool inside. Right now the manure is freezing to the alleys, so you ask...why don't you heat the barn. There's a major problem with that....cows have winter hair! Cows grow a thick coat of hair each winter, by putting them in a heated barn they would sweat heavily and catch a "cow cold". Instead of warming the cows, we allow their hair to insulate them. We work hard to keep them dry and comfortable with fresh bedding often. With that thick hair they hardly notice the cool temps.
The cold dry air is drying out my skin. My hands are cracked....and it is also drying out our cows' skin. We use a special teat dip for our cows with lots of moisturizers in it (just like a lotion). We also make sure that cows leaving the parlor have dry teats, because wet teats can get skin damage and in extreme cold even frost bite!
The calves are the most susceptible to the cold weather. New calves are quickly moved from the calving pen. New wet calves can very easily get frost bite (especially their ears!), so we swiftly dry them off, put them in a calf coat, bed them in with lots of straw, and feed them lots of warm colostrum. As they grow we make sure to increase the calories that we feed them. Cold weather means they are using more of their own energy to stay warm, so we compensate for that by feeding extra milk each day. Calves also have unlimited access to calf starter.
Older heifers also eat extra calories and enjoy extra bedding. All of the extra effort is worth it, knowing our cows are doing well...it just takes a lot of extra time and work on our part. So...chores are taking a lot longer than they would in fall, spring or summer....bear with us, it's going to be another long Minnesota Winter.