Since last week, we’ve been feeling the wrath of the now single-digit temperatures on the farm. Winter is finally staking its claim to the weather. It certainly feels like our 60-degree January afternoons are gone for good.
With such frigid temperatures comes a whole host of farm issues that are, honestly, miserable to figure out. No amount of preparation can get you ready for your first real farm winter caring for all kinds of animals.
The cows are still in their expanded pasture space alongside the calves in the corral. Both have access to hay bales along with water and grain troughs. They have wind breaks – the calves go in their small shelter and the bigger cows head toward the thicker trees.
Goats are in a similar boat. They have all the food and nutrition they could need. Plus, an excellent shelter with a heat lamp active day and night. While they’ve likely acclimated well to the temps – it’s freaking cold out there. Their smaller bodies combined with having shrunk the herd to 4 total made us think they can use a little help on the heat end of things. They seem to be grateful.
Our biggest hurdle with all of the livestock is keeping their water access thawed. At this time of year, the creek is dry, our pond is frozen and even the more natural drainage of the pond toward the creek is usually frozen. That means we have to keep steel troughs and plastic buckets filled with ice broken loose and water accessible.
It’s tough. We could break ice in all of the water bins – 2 large troughs, 2 buckets, the chickens’ water feeder and the cats’ water pans – two or three times a day and still not be able to keep up with how fast the surface solidifies.
Last Fall, we installed heaters in the troughs to help prevent this exact issue. Those aren’t working nearly as well as we need them to. Plus, they also don’t solve for how we fill the tanks when the animals are drinking all of the water.
Aaron McGuyver’d a pump and hose from the pond to the troughs in the Fall too. However, with the pond and hoses all frozen – using that source to push water to the animals isn’t all that possible. We’re back to using the 50-gallon drum strapped into the back of the side-by-side to deliver water pulled out of our spigots. It’s an expensive solve, but exactly what we have to do for the time being.
Add in that all of the work and all of the problem solving is done while bundled up in the freezing weather and the whole chore of it all gets exhausting fast. We’ve quickly learned to invest in good, warm gear that will take plenty of wear and tear.
At least the crispy cool fresh air is nice, though.