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Dairying in Minus 25 Degrees

We have many challenges when the temps are this low, especially when wind chills are minus 50 degrees. With their heavy hair coats, the cows and pregnant heifers seem to do just fine, as long as they are kept dry. They do eat more as some of the energy in the grass is used up maintaining body temperature. We try to bed the hoop shed often so they have a dry place to lay down.

In normal weather, the cows leave the milking parlor with wet teats from post dipping with the iodine teat dip which prevents udder infection. In this weather, the teat ends must be wiped with a dry towel before they leave the milking parlor.

With severe cold weather, the exit door from the parlor becomes a real challenge. It seems that when a cow is faced with the fact that she must leave the parlor and go into the cold so other cows can be milked, the first thing that she does is defecate. This manure drops right in the doorway, freezes in seconds, and needs to be chipped out with a grub hoe after every milking so the door can be closed.

The Parlor is heated with a propane heater. We usually keep the temperature set at 45 degrees. With these extremes, we set it up to 50 degrees to keep our wash down pump from freezing up. Normally one filling of the propane tank will last the winter. This year we already ordered a second filling.

It is a good thing that we brought our spring calving heifers home in December, as they are helping to keep our old unheated waterer in our heifer lot from freezing. This waterer is an old, well insulated one, that is known to freeze up in extreme windchill conditions. It has two openings, one for the bred heifer/dry cow lot and the other for our calf lot. The last few days the ice buildup on the inside has been severe, but with a pail of extremely hot water and a hatchet, we were able to thaw and chip at the drinking areas to keep them open.

Almost all the area where the cows eat and walk to and from the parlor are covered with 6 to 12 inches of frozen manure. The cows don’t seem to have an issue with this as long as they are allowed to walk at their own speed. We normally have a break in the cold at least every two weeks. This year the consistent cold has not allowed us to scrape the area. As thick as the manure is, it will take 3 to 4 days of 40 degrees to thaw it.

Come on January thaw!!