Below zero. Hearing those two words are enough to make me shiver. Days like today are no fun for anyone, but especially for the farmers that are outside taking care of animals.
Cold weather and snow make me to get out a blanket and some hot chocolate. On the farm, the winter weather has a much bigger effect. Even when the weather is nasty, farmers don’t get snow days. On days when I’m content to sit inside and figure out exactly how cold it is by looking at my weather app, farmers are spending extra time in the cold to make sure the animals have bedding, food, and water.
Snow and cold make things move a little slower on the farm. A fresh snow ensures that at least a few hours of the day will be dedicated to moving snow. Below-zero temperatures mean there’s a constant battle to keep water available for drinking. Hot jugs of water are hauled from the house to thaw water tanks and ice needs to be chopped so cattle can drink. Even when it’s cold the cattle are outside, so farmers make sure they have protection from the wind and bedding to keep them warm. All of these things are done in addition to daily chores. On days when it’s coldest, farmers are spending extra time outside to care for their animals.
Cattle feel the cold too, but their body actually can handle the cold better than extreme heat. Their thick skin helps keep them warm, and their winter diet helps prepare them for days like today. Cattle receive a diet higher in energy in the winter and they are also fed roughages to help keep them warm. Digesting feed actually increases the animal’s body temperature, and a high-energy diet helps cattle add a few pounds of insulation to keep the cold out. A nearby wind break and a good coat of hair seal the deal, and make staying warm a little easier.
While we’re inside snuggled up with a blanket and hot chocolate, farmers are outside making sure their cattle are warm and fed. Thank you to all the farmers that do hard work, even on the coldest days, so we can eat.
Listen to this week's Farmer's Daughter radio segment here: FARMERS_DAUGHTER-JAN_11TH.mp3