Time and change: As fall arrives, prepare operations for winter

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pennsylvania farm

Summer is coming to an end and the feel of the arrival of fall is in the air and in the scenery with the harvest of crops, picking of pumpkins, apple picking and many other activities announcing the arrival of another season. Actually, Sept. 22 is the official arrival of fall.

With the ‘time and change’ title, you might have thought this article was going to focus on the famous fall sport of football and a team from central Ohio. Yet, that is not the case.

As we experience the change of the season, I suggest our focus to jump forward to the season after fall, yes winter. It is not too early to start thinking about things we need to do on the dairy farm this fall to be prepared for winter, especially for the things that may require considerable time to conduct.

Feed supply

If we ran short on supply of haycrop silage or hay during the winter of 2021, we need to plan this fall for avoiding this shortage in 2022. This could mean harvesting additional haycrop silage or hay, purchasing additional hay or possibly harvesting additional corn silage to stretch the hay or haycrop silage supplies.

Attention on calves: Did we have respiratory disease in the preweaned calves last winter? Perhaps, we need to improve the ventilation this fall to avoid this issue in 2022. Did the calves in hutches struggle with the cold in 2021? Do we need to provide some windbreaks to reduce the environmental stress? Are we prepared to feed more milk to provide the additional energy needed?

Perhaps we have been thinking about changing the milk feeding system to provide additional milk and improve sanitation to reduce the risk of diarrhea. Do we need to purchase some calf coats, especially for the smaller calves with more risk for cold stress? Make sure you have an adequate supply of bedding. Lactating and dry cows. Be prepared with the supplies to reduce mastitis and teat injury during the winter. Did you have problems with frostbite last year? Can you avoid it this year by changing the parlor protocol? Do any refinements need to be made in you mastitis control protocol? Were there any spikes in health problems during the winter last year, e.g., pneumonia or metabolic diseases? If so, what can be done to reduce the risk of it happening again.

Facilities

Condition of barns and curtains need to be checked and repairs made. Are all doors functioning properly, especially the overhead doors? Adequate supply of water for all animals is needed. Did the defroster cause problem in one or more of the waterers last year?

Did you have problems with slippery surfaces in any places last winter that increase the risk for animal or human injury? How can these be avoided?

Equipment

Make sure the generator is functioning properly. Make sure all equipment is winterized and working properly, even the equipment that will be needed for snow removal. Make sure farm fuel tanks are full after the harvest season. Make sure needed repairs on manure handling equipment are completed.

While we are enjoying the fall season, time will slip away quickly. Before we realize it, the holidays will be upon us and then winter will be arriving. Some of the things we may need to focus on in being prepared for winter can likely be changed in short order, but there may be some things that will take considerable time and investment. These aspects especially need attention now in order to be ready for winter.

Time will bring change; be prepared for the season ahead.

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