How cold is it? It is so cold that a calf feeder had to switch from metal buckets to plastic buckets because the calves’ noses froze to the bottom of the milk bucket if they didn’t pull their heads out the second they hit bottom.
While only a slight exaggeration, this truly is a challenging winter for those who work outdoors.
Sure signs. You know it has been too cold for too long on a dairy farm when:
* Frost-free waterers gave up that status about two weeks ago and now produce snow-cones.
* Throat clearance height on water tanks is 5 inches higher (ice) than it is in June since cows feel compelled to drool that last mouthful of water on the edge of the tank instead of swallowing it.
* The three new “igloo” hutches really are igloos - made out of all the half-bucket chunks of ice that get knocked out of water buckets twice a day.
Too many layers. * You get hot in your work clothes when the temperature is above 20.
* Milkers no longer ask if they should blot the cow’s teats dry before letting them out, they just assume they need to.
* You swear you will never breed a cow or heifer (especially a heifer) in March, April or May ever again.
* ”Please let everything work/start/run tomorrow” becomes part of your evening prayers.
House to barn. * No big towels or extra blankets can be found in the house because they all migrated out to the barn to dry off and warm up newborn calves. Ditto for the hair dryer.
* Three hundred dollars for a closed-circuit television system between the house and the calving pen starts looking like a bargain at 1 a.m. with a minus 10 wind chill.
* The calf feeder gets really excited when the temp hits 33 degrees and the water buckets didn’t freeze between feedings.
* No one has to go looking for extension cords – they know they are all on the tractors, the skid loaders, the heat lamps.
Call me ‘Grace.’ * Everyone has ungracefully landed on their keister at least once.
* You are really happy you bed with sand because you have a big pile of it to spread on the farm drives so the feed and milk trucks can get in and out.
Your driveway will look like Myrtle Beach when it finally thaws.
* Bedded packs are easy to clean. Just wear steel-toed boots and kick the freeze-dried pies off (paperweights anyone?).
* You have an overwhelming urge to strangle anyone who ever said “… cows don’t need to be warm, they need to be clean, dry and comfortable …”
* And you really know it has been too cold, too long when it hits 30 degrees and you seriously start worrying about heat stress on the cows.
(The author is the northeast Ohio district dairy specialist with OSU Extension. Send comments or questions in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)