What do farmers do all winter?
Surely, they must kick back and relax and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa on these cold and (sometimes) snowy winter days!
Well, not exactly. It depends a bit on what type of farmer we’re discussing. Someone has to milk the cows to get the milk for that creamy hot cocoa anyway! Farmers who raise animals such as the Ayrshire cows in our dairy farm have to put in many extra hours when the temperatures drop. Whether it’s 9 degrees or 90 degrees, the cows still have to be milked twice a day, but everyday tasks take much longer in the cold weather.
We have to ensure that water lines and water troughs don’t freeze so our cows can stay hydrated. If there’s snow or ice, we have to get our driveway cleared and salted promptly so that the milk truck can come on schedule every other day – our holding tank is only so large, and the cows keep producing milk in any weather! Plus, we want to keep our driveways clear for any customers who need to swing by for dairy products. Just like the grocery stores, we often see the pre-storm rush for staples like milk and eggs.
In the cold weather, lots of things freeze and break. We normally have an alley scraper that removes all the manure from the cows stalls. But when it freezes, as Don likes to say “frozen cow manure is the hardest substance known to man.” So when that happens, we have to scoop it out with a loader.
How do the cows stay warm?
Thankfully, God takes care of his creatures and designed them to grow a nice warm winter coat just in time for the cooler weather. This keeps them warm in cooler temperatures and we provide the shelter of the barns and lush straw for bedding. The only time their winter coat can present a challenge is if we have an unseasonably warm spell followed by a cold snap. When they warm up with their thicker coats, they sweat. If it cools down too fast, they can get sick from being cold and damp.
How do we stay warm?
Don’s mom, Josie, still feeds the calves daily and is probably the most bundled up of all of us. Some days she’ll wear three layers of pants to stay warm enough! When it comes to tractor work, Don and the boys are able to work in tractors with enclosed cabs – a big improvement from year’s past! Otherwise they dress in lots of layers too.
What else do we do?
Sales do slow down a little bit, giving us a little bit of a breather with deliveries of our dairy products. Many of the farmers’ markets we go to have limited hours in the off season and retail markets see fewer customers in the winter. However, another part of our business is making hay. Demand for hay increases in the winter, so hay sales keep us busy. Winter is a good time to catch up on paperwork like certifications such as our raw milk license and bookkeeping. We also enjoy continuing education and seek out events to help us improve our farming and cheesemaking ventures.
How can people help farmers in the winter?
The best way to help farmers in the winter is to continue buying their products year-round. We’ll be sure to keep our driveways and walkways clear, so stop over snow or shine to get your favorite Conebella Farm Cheese, Smoothies, Greek Yogurt & more!