How to Prepare Your Dairy for the Winter Season
By: Dawn Klabenes, Dairy Extension Intern
Whether we are ready or not, winter is fast approaching. With winter comes a variety of challenges for dairy farmers and it can be a hard season. To prepare for those hardships, here are some things to keep in mind to make the cold season easier to get through.
As temperatures decrease and snow piles up, cold stress also sets in. It’s important to ensure that there is enough feed on hand for your cattle. With lower temperatures, an animal’s nutrition requirements go up. Meeting up with your nutritionist to tweak the ration to fit the cows’ needs will prove to be beneficial. Make sure you are prepared to provide all the energy your cows need to thrive.
Calves are going to need a little bit more TLC during the winter, so investing in calf jackets to keep them insulated will help. As I said in the last point, they need extra milk and feed to keep their body temperatures regulated, so remember to fulfill their needs. Lining up some hay bales along the huts will provide some extra protection from the wind, and facing the hutches out of the wind plays a big role in keeping them warm as well. Remember that southern winds are usually warmer than winds from the north, so facing the huts toward the south will be beneficial, and your calves will appreciate it!
To prevent delays from equipment failing due to the harsh temps, remember to prepare your equipment to help your winter days run more smoothly. Testing and servicing your generator might be the difference between keeping the milking on schedule and having no power to keep things moo-ving. Also, look at your waterers to make sure they are working properly to prevent your cows being stuck without water. Checking the heaters in your barn to make sure they’re working correctly will help keep you and your cows more comfortable.
Lastly, make sure you and your employees have the proper winter attire (winter boots, gloves, coats, etc.) that will help you all push through the fierce weather. If you are comfortable and haven’t lost all feeling in your toes yet, it will be easier for you to withstand the cold longer so that you can ensure all the animals are getting the proper care needed.