Here in sunny Illinois, it is -13 with a wind chill of -39. I just finished feeding my calves and making sure everyone is warm and healthy. We use wood shavings in the hutch with straw piled on top. Each calf gets a “calf blanket” to help keep warm on these crazy cold days!
Our barn is a stanchion barn, meaning all the cows are in at once. It is usually around 50-55 degrees in our barn, so this weather doesn’t really affect our cows too much, just the humans! In above 25 degree weather, they are let out for the afternoon while we clean the barn and re-bed the stalls. In weather like this, we let them out in sections for only around 1/2 hour. We feed them all inside, so they just go out to socialize for a bit. The human chores last all day long, barely stopping for fuel, but when all the animals are taken care of, then we can relax and not worry while we eat and rest before “night” chores. Stanchion barns are great in the winter but can be warmer in the summer, though our cows aren’t in for very long in the summer during milking! Each farm adapts to the type of barn they build. Ours was built in 1915, and added on to in 1980, so we have an older barn style.
We were asked by Organic Valley to do a photo shoot on our farm for Dr. Silvia, the ruminant nutritionist for CROPP. It’s for The Wall Street Journal article called “What’s In Your Bag”, where they write about what Dr. Silvia carries in her own bag. They arrived at 10:00 a.m. ready for the shoot. Beaches and swimsuits? Nope, just cows, hay, and a shed.
It’s always fun to watch our animals when someone is shooting them, they look at them as if to say “Who are you and why are you in my territory!” They stand like pros, curiously watching as the people pose, laugh, and talk. Never really even missing a beat. We all dress in our coveralls, heavy hats, gloves, and boots. My boots even have cleats on them to prevent slipping on all the ice out there. The photographer and Dr. Silvia aren’t quite dressed for the elements – they look fashionable, but not “workable” for farm life on a day like this cold one! All in all, it was a fun photo shoot, and a great break from thawing waterers, bedding animals, feeding and our other normal chores!