A blanket of deep white snow makes winter emotionally official. It is lovely and it is harsh. When the night temperatures dip down into the single digits and everything is covered in thick snow, some things change on the farm.
Our cows are eating stored forage that we put up for them over the summer. In order to assess the quality of the feed we work closely with a local feed company. They take samples of each different cut of hay off each different field and analyze its composition. They give us reports back with the protein, sugars, starches, minerals, various acids, etc. This helps us decide which hay to feed to which group of cows, and what the supplementation needs to be. Well-fed cows make the best milk, and good milk makes the best cheese! For the most part, the cows don’t mind the cold too much. The extreme heat of the summer, on the other hand, tends to take a big toll on them physically. We are keeping a careful eye this weekend on one cow in particular – she is a small Jersey about to have her first calf. We want to be sure that she and her calf do well in the cold weather. Two winters ago we had a tiny Jersey calf born to a heifer cow and we decided to keep the little guy in the milking parlor so he would stay warm. Here he is on the left resting on my lap immediately after he was born. On the right he is in the little pen we made for him on a bed of straw. He stayed in there for several days, until he was strong enough to go outside in the bitter cold. Normally calves live with the other calves in a 3 sided shed from day one.
Anyone who is familiar with pigs knows that they like to huddle. Sometimes the huddle is a pig pile, especially when they are keeping warm. Right now we have two sows (Ophelia and Beatrice) and the growing piglets from Ophelia’s last litter. They are all living together in the tin barn. If you come by the farm, you may see them outside roaming around the chicken coop, or laying together in the barn for warmth. In this photo Ophelia is laying on the right and the very large Beatrice is on the left. The piglets are happily nestled between them. Even though Ophelia is their birth mother, Beatrice is lactating as well so the piglets nurse from both moms – creating a unique little pig family. They are all quite happy together – I highly recommend paying them a visit the next time you stop by the farm.
For us humans – we get to frolic in the snow, plow the driveway and parking lot, pray that the roads are clear enough for customers, and watch the cows roam beautifully through the snowy pastures.