Farm management winter checklist

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winter barn

Well, it’s that time of year when we’ve wrapped up most of our grazing activities.

Although we’re doing better at stockpiling forages and may be grazing animals for a few more weeks, now is the time we get to ponder on the grazing year.

Some folks may have had too much rain, while others didn’t have enough. Maybe you were in the sweet spot and got just the right amount.

For those who put up hay, maybe timing was the issue. The biggest complaint I get is that the weather or work schedule won’t cooperate with the hay cutting schedule.

Whatever the case, now is the time to make sure that next year is the best yet.

Test the hay

Hopefully, you have enough hay for the winter, but what do you really have? For all of the time and effort we put into raising these animals, I am really surprised how little most folks know about what they are feeding.

For the cost of a couple of bags of feed, you could test a full cutting of hay.

With that information, you can formulate rations for all of your stock, no matter what stage of production or reproduction they are in.

For those who are little tight with the wallet, you might learn you are losing more than you’re gaining by feeding a poor or limited diet.

On the other hand, maybe you’re a little too generous and the animals might be a little too plump. You could help yourself out by getting them on the right ration for what they need (just ask my wife about my round hounds) and save some money.

Either way, you could see increased profits. This goes for those who buy hay, as well as those who produce their own hay. I would even pay more for hay that comes with an analysis.

Test the soil

Take a little time and soil test your pastures and hay fields. You might find out that you need a little lime.

If the weather holds out, you might even get to put it on the field before spring green up. At the least, you can be prepared in the spring as soon as the fields dry out a little.

Another advantage is that you will know how much fertilizer you will need and may be able to book a good price during the off-season.

Watch the stock

We look at them every day, but do we really look at them?

The winter months are really a good time to keep up with Body Condition Scoring (BCS). It’s just a visual appraisal of how fat the animals are, going into and through the winter.

With modern technology, it’s easier than ever. I have an app on my smartphone called Beef Cow BCS. It lets me take a picture of a cow and compare it with pictures in the system to give the cow a score from 1-9.

A score of 5-6 is great. Otherwise, you might need to make some changes.

I can save the picture and cow number to compare it with pictures I take throughout the winter.

For those not quite up on all of this technology stuff, you can still pick up a set of pictures for BCS from your local Extension office.

You can compare them to what your cow looks like and keep notes on paper. You could also take pictures of your cows and then do the comparisons indoors.

Plan for planting

Maybe you are thinking about frost seeding some clover or putting in some spring legumes. Now is the time to make sure that you will have the seed that you want come planting time.

Nothing is more frustrating than making plans, then finding out that all of the seed has sold out or the variety that you want is not available.

Check the cows

Fall breeding season is over — hopefully. (What is that bull still doing out with the cows?)

Now is the time to do some pregnancy checking. You’ve heard it before and I will repeat it, keeping an open cow in the herd is a losing proposition.

I know that she has produced some good calves in the past and she hasn’t given you any problems, but she’s eating up money and not giving anything in return.

Kick up your feet

Winter always seemed like a slower time, but farm and grazing management never take a break.

Most of the things on this list should only take a day or two. After that, if you need to get away, use this list as an excuse to go out to the shop and prop your feet up next to the hot stove.

Remember to stay safe, keep warm and enjoy the farm that you have.

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