Making Hay
Week of December 7th, 2003 | The weather was snowy.

We had snow!

We had snow!

We have snow! About 3 inches fell Thursday night. The snow was sticky and slippery, so we had a one-hour late start on Friday.

Back in 1983, a terrible blizzard came and lasted for three days. Dad remembered that it snowed 24 inches! He learned the hard way about preparing for blizzards on our farm. He was not ready for that storm and both he and the livestock had to suffer. After the snow, the temperatures fell to -25 degrees F. Dad, since then, has learned to prepare for coming storms by doing as many extra chores as possible.

We have hogs on the Cargill hog floors and in the hoop buildings during the winter months. It is very important to watch the weather forecast to know when a blizzard is coming. Filling all of the self-feeders full of feed and putting the covers on is a basic pre-storm practice. If strong winds manage to blow the cover off, the feed prevents the snow from accumulating inside. In 1983, Dad had to shovel snow out of his hog feeders by hand. Hog feeders can be very hard to clean out. Sometimes in the late fall we have sows and pigs in the pasture when cold weather sets in. We have learned to set the hog water fountains so it will just over fill a little bit. This way, hogs can drink water and it won't freeze. You'll have a small water mess, but won't have to work many hours getting the fountain working again. The water fountains at home are all electrically heated.The livestock are bedded down before the storm comes. Good bedding can help hogs stay warm. You can't predict what will happen with a blizzard. It could be a light one, or a heavy, cold, snowy one. My grandfather always said, "Well bed is half fed". It is very true. Hogs chew and eat some bedding. While it is not a major food source, it does a lot to keep the stock comfortable. (Grandpa experienced a lot of snowstorms in his time, too!)

If you already have snow, pile it up somewhere in the open. We usually make a pile right south of our driveway. That way, if blizzards have an east wind, our big pile of snow will keep winds and snow drifts out of our yard. Snow fence is a good idea, too.

Even the tractors need care before a storm comes! The engine oil is changed to an oil type that flows well in very cold temperatures. We park tractors in machine sheds near an electric outlet. If you need a tractor or vehicle during cold temperatures or a blizzard, you need to plug it in to warm the engine up. In 1983, Dad was prepared for a blizzard and had his heat houser on his John Deere tractor. Dad was the only farmer in the neighborhood who had an operating tractor! He had to make hog feed for some of our neighbors. This took all day and it was a lot of work. Dad barely made it home from his last stop because of the cold temperatures. But the heat houser both kept Dad warm and prevented the diesel fuel from freezing. Even blended winterized fuel can turn to jelly when exposed to high winds and severe temperatures.

It is helpful if we clean out messy hog floors and the cattle yard. If we move that manure onto a compost pile, then we have less manure to contend with on the open floors or cattle yard. After we are finished hauling manure, we usually prepare the manure spreader for blizzards. We keep the end gate up if possible and keep the spreader empty. If there is some manure in it, the manure can freeze and you'll have to use a pick ax to get it out.

Cattle herds eat before a blizzard. This way, their full stomachs insulate their body. Cattle need shelter (either buildings or trees) for protection from strong winds. They huddle together and do not want to eat or drink until the blizzard is gone.

Make sure you have enough fuel for heaters in the barns and for the house. You don't want to get cold during the night! Since fuel is expensive and a nonrenewable resource, it is an excellent idea to have a wood or corn heater. Trees and corn can be replanted, so they are renewable. We are discussing about getting a corn heater soon.

We usually keep at least one door partly open in our shop and granary. This way, if the door freezes, we can still get through and try to pry it open. If it freezes while being fully shut, then we can't get in!

Snow can be good insulation. Sometimes, we pile snow against our north barn wall to help keep the winter farrowing rooms warm. These are the main priorities that we do to prepare for a blizzard on our farm.

Farm Fact: All livestock tend to eat excessively before a winter storm. Researchers believe that low barometric pressure induces this behavior.

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