Sunday, 1 January 2017

What do Farmers do during the Winter Months?

What happens on farms when the grain has been harvested and stored, hay has been cut and baled? Farmers don't jet off to the Bahamas! Even when it's too cold for crops to grow farmers still have duties on the farm.
Even after the combines are sparklingly clean and put away for the winter, arable farmers don't stop farming. The winter months are a time to prepare for the coming year by budgeting for and purchasing things like seed and fertiliser. Some arable farmers store their crops on farm and spend winter shipping grain from their farm ethanol plants, feed mills and river terminals, where grain get loaded onto barges and shipped far and wide. Many farmers work on farm equipment like tractors and planters in preparation for spring tillage and planting. It is in this time of year that many farmers also make the final decisions about what crops to plant on which fields. A lot goes into that decision, including factors like what crop was on the field the previous year, what relative profitability of various crops are, known disease pressure that might be in the oil on that particular field, and the soil types of the field.

Winter for livestock farmers a bit different than it is for arable farmers. Though they still have to manage their finances and plan for the coming year, they have the added responsibility of caring of animals in the cold, windy winter months. In addition to the everyday care that farmers always provide for their livestock, special attention has to be paid to water troughs that can freeze, livestock that can frostbite and technology that can shut down to cold weather and ice.


Winter brings additional challenge to beef and dairy cattle farmers, who have to feed and milk their animals every day. They provide warm bedding to every cow so she doesn't get frostbite on her teats. When the temperature drops below zero, many farmers elect to bring newborn calves into their own homes to ensure they are warm enough, calves are ver susceptible to frostbit, especially on their ears. Farmers also have to scrape pens and check cattle more often in the winter months to make are animals are kept, healthy and comfortable in the snow and cold. 

Most pigs, turkeys and chickens are lucky to be housed inside and they don't even realise that it's winter! For these livestock farmers, maintaining electricity and generators is crucial in the winter months, because keeping smaller livestock warm can be a challenge. Of course, any livestock farmer has to be work about diesel fuel tractors running in the cold and keeping extra feed supplies on hand in case rural roads become impassable in the winter.

For all farmers, winter can be a time to catch up on goings on in the industry through many trade shows, for example LAMMA etc. These are opportunities for farmers to learn, explode and reconnect with others in the industry. 

Relatively speaking, the winter months can be a slower time for farmers. More often than not, they can be seen enduring the cold while working on animals, machinery, or plans for the coming year. 

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