Winter is coming…. no we aren’t in “Game of Thrones,” but I do feel a little like Ned Starks of the night watch tower as the cold temperatures creeps closer. There is nothing that I can do to prevent it, so I must embrace the season. The season of cold hands, frigid air, numb toes, and bulky layers-upon layers. Here is where the fun begins… add a farm and all the animals to your vision of winter. It’s not fun or easy, but we have made our winter tasks a little more tolerable and here is how we did it…
Run water and electric to all the areas where your animals will be. Our farm was completely undeveloped, so we had a raw canvas to allow the layout to speak to us. Running water and electric isn’t the easiest of tasks, but it will save you in the long run. We do still use a hose to fill each water trough, but we undo it every evening and allow it to empty. This prevents remaining water from freezing inside the hose. Our larger livestock (goats, pigs, cows)drink out of troughs and customized barrels. If you have rabbits, I recommend you buying a couple extra water bottles and switch the frozen bottle out twice a day if needed. I would also heavily insulate and enclose my rabbit hutches so the water bottles would freeze as fast.
Invest in livestock water heaters and have a couple on hand just in case. We purchased Farm Innovators Model C-500 Submergible Cast Aluminum “Around The Farm” Utility De-Iced, 500-Watt and they work like a champ. These water heaters, aren’t too much and I guarantee they will save your livestock during the freezing winter months! If not… then invest in a large hammer to crack the ice!
Bulk up on Straw, Good Quality hay, feed, and medications!!!! On our farm, we utilize straw for bedding and avoid heat lamps. Heat lamps can be extremely dangerous and most animals do not actually need them. If the animals have an enclosed area with heavy straw, they should be able to withstand the winter temperatures. Good Quality hay and feed will help the animals sustain proper body conditions during the winter months, due to potential lack of grazing! We also have livestock due in January/February and I keep a variety of medications on hand just in case! Bulking up on these items is like having money in the bank… you don’t want to use it all, but you are happy to know you have extra just in case! We bulk up for ease of mind and also convenience. I would hate to have to unload 30 bales of hay while there is snow on the ground!
Be prepared for snow/ice… One year we got hit with a storm that dumped 35inches of snow on us! Do you have a way to dig yourself out? How about digging your animals out? Invest in a hardy shovel and some good traction shoes! This may be a little off the topic, but always carry your phone on you or let someone know what you are doing. God forbid something were to happen to you while your out there… this step goes into step five…
DO NOT PUT YOUR LIFE AT RISK!!! I can not stress this enough… I’ve often joke about how pretty much every animal on my farm could possibly kill me if it wanted to, but it is a reality that most never really grasp! Your life is too precious to put yourself in harms way. Plan your day with the weather and watch for freezing rain and tree limbs. I grew up on a mountain in the woods and I can recall the heavily iced tree limbs cracking as the wind blew. The sound of the limbs falling could be felt all around our house! Don’t put yourself in a bad situation!!!
As I mentioned earlier, ice and tree limbs can cause so much destruction. Plan for power outages! Invest in a backup generator and don’t forget gas. We have a well, so I personally wouldn’t stress on that as much as I would on preventing my troughs from freezing. Our troughs have enough water in them to keep all our animals hydrated for at least a week.
As soon as the storm passes and it is save to go outside. Take the time to assess the damages. Check your fencing, structures, and all the animals! Don’t forget to bring your chainsaw and your tool bag just in case.
Stay Safe This Winter,