Get the Jump on Winter with Practical Preparations

Published on Mon, 09/17/2018 - 1:20pm

 Get the Jump on Winter with Practical Preparations

 By Bruce Derksen

 When we feel summer and fall slipping from our grasp, whether we want to accept it or not, we know that winter will soon be knocking at the door and we must be ready.  Procrastinating and ignoring the elephant in the room that is winter, is not smart, because when it shows up, and it will, we need to be able to withstand it.

There are plenty of things to get ready before the snow flies and the cold temperatures hit, but the majority can be grouped into the animals, the infrastructure and last but not least, yourself and your family.
With the colder temperatures and harsh conditions of winter, the cow herd’s diet will need to be adjusted.  At 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below, a cow begins to need more energy to maintain its normal body heat.  Younger heifers and calves are even more susceptible to the demands of weather.  Weaned animals can be supported by the feeding of extra hay, forages and grain to sustain their protein and energy requirements while the very young calves can be offered a greater quantity of milk replacer, or extra feedings.  Energy supplements can also be stocked to use in milk replacer or whole milk increasing calories in times of cold weather.  Remember calves younger than a month in age can experience cold stress at temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and will require extra attention.  Consider the use of calf blankets as many producers swear by them.  Young cattle need to be using the provided energy and protein for growth and production, not only maintenance.
It is a good rule of thumb to have on hand a two weeks quantity of commonly used veterinary dairy supplies such as mastitis treatments, antibiotics, electrolytes, colostrum, antiseptics, syringes and needles.

If you grow your own grains, hay and forages, make sure you will have enough to last the season, and if this is not the case, make early arrangements to purchase what is required.  Make every attempt to complete the harvesting and storage of your feed and bedding while the weather is still good.  You may not get another chance before the snow flies.
Make building, fence, gates and water bowl repairs early while it is more comfortable to be outside in the elements.  Consider adding a snow fence for those troublesome areas that seem inclined to catch drifts.  They can be a fairly easy to erect, cost effective defense against excess snow.  Repair windbreaks and drafty areas of the buildings and barns.  Make sure to look up at ventilation fans and roof issues.  It’s much easier to make these repairs in reasonable weather than the day the first winter blizzard hits tearing the tin roof sheets loose and launching them across the yard threatening to decapitate someone.  
And don’t forget about your feeding, bedding and snow removal equipment.  Get skid steers, loaders, feed wagons and manure pumps serviced, repaired or upgraded as needed, plus stock up on extra fuel.
And of course, don’t ignore the needs of yourself and your family.  Dig out your winter clothes and boots so you’re not fumbling around in the dark at 5 a.m. the morning of the first winter storm.  Get the family involved in a clean- up afternoon picking up the tools and equipment lying around the yard before they get covered by the winter snows.
Basic risk management is a part of any business, so consider the possibility of extended extreme weather and the action you will take to minimize the problems that could arise.  Ask yourself what you could do if access to your farm is cut off.  It’s not always a situation where you need to bring in supplies- you may not be able to have your milk collected at normal time intervals.  What about power failures?  Should you service your old generator or invest in something better?  
And lastly, make sure to have a list handy of all the important phone numbers you may need in an emergency, like your veterinarian, dairy or insurance company.  Winter can be fearsome but if you’ve planned ahead and prepared well, it can be wrestled into submission and before long spring will be helping you forget that winter ever had you worried in the first place.