Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The dog days of winter

There's been a lot of talk – and some complaining – this winter about how cold it's been and how much snow we've had. And for good reason. If next week's forecast holds true and we get another cold snap, the winter of 2013-14 will go down as one of the top 10 coldest winters on record for the St. Cloud, Minn. area.

Ozzie posing like a seal.

For Ozzie, our Australian Shepherd, the cold temperatures and snow have been a treat. Oz spent most of the summer panting in the shade. When the temperature started dropping this fall, Ozzie came to life. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him dive through the snow like a seal while we wait for the bus with Dan and zoom around the yard during playtime.

I won't go so far as to say that the winter has been a treat for us, but, overall, it hasn't been too bad. We followed our plan last spring, so we didn't have any cows or heifers calving between mid-December and the beginning of February. We were able to sell some of our cows to another dairy farm, so we didn't have any switch cows for the winter. And, since our baby calves our housed inside now, we didn't have to deal with cold calves and calf hutches buried in snowdrifts.

We also started mixing TMRs (total mixed rations) for our dry cows and heifers. Prior to this winter, only the milking cows got TMR. The TMRs for the dry cows and heifers have simplified feeding those groups, reduced the amount of wasted feed, and helped ensure that every animal gets the proper balance of nutrients.

But now we've come to the dog days of winter. We have cows calving almost daily (which is a lot for us) and a newborn pen overflowing with baby calves. We can't move the weaned calves out of the barn until it warms up a little and we can scrape the yards. The frozen buildup in the big heifers' yard makes it look like the heifers could walk right over the fences and neckrails if they were so inclined. At least we have enough cows ready to go dry to make room for the fresh cows. But that means more calves to make room for. Pretty soon the yards will start to thaw. I hope.

I hope our septic system will start to thaw out soon, too. The man who came to take a look at steaming open the septic system said that the frost under roadways (or anywhere the snow is packed) is over seven feet deep. Normally, the frost will go down about three feet. We could be pumping out our holding tank for quite awhile.

But, if that's the worst of our challenges this winter, I won't complain.

How has the winter been treating you?

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