While everyone else is rejoicing the snow day that’s happening here, for us it simply means that life will be more difficult. Every day is work on a dairy farm, but when snow arrives with cold temperatures it can make even the easiest chore hard. The local television news crews may remind viewers to care for their dogs and cats, but a few hundred hungry bovines is a different challenge altogether.
Food and water are not necessities reserved for people. Our young calves stay inside barns and providing extra hay and water for them isn’t too tough. The older heifers that are in the elements require more. They need more to eat because that will provide them with the calories they need to stay warm.
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
-The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, -Coleridge
Snow, sleet, and ice are not easy to drink for a cow.
We have many water troughs available for our girls, but they need regular attention to keep fresh water refilling them and to prevent ice from forming. Frozen pipes are bad, too. An adult cow can drink a bathtub of water per day, and restricting her from getting her fill directly impacts the amount of milk she will produce. While some tanks have heaters to prevent freezing, even they are little match for Mother Nature when she is disagreeable.
The cows will get extra hay, too. We’re keeping the Hay Buffet open twenty-four hours a day.
We use conveyors to deliver silage to a long feed way. They work extremely well except when ice forms on the ends and there is little we can do except wait for it to melt in those extreme cases. On days like that we will offer more hay to the cows to keep them happy and full.
Many farms also have their own generator to deal with power outages. The cows need to be milked each day on their schedule. Like the proverbial mailman, neither rain, sleet, or snow will keep the dairy farmer from feeding, milking, and providing for their cows.