If you live pretty much anywhere in the US, I'm sure you're aware that it's cold. Not just cold, it's REALLY cold! Like -17 degrees cold overnight here in Iowa!
My mom called the other night and you know who she was concerned about? Our baby calves. I think she knew we were probably fine & keeping warm but didn't know how we were keeping the calves warm. And you might be wondering the same thing - how do we keep our calves warm in this weather?
Era had a baby calf late last Saturday night and we aptly named her Extreme because of the extreme cold! Since our cows calve in the maternity area in the barn year around (warmer in winter & cooler in summer!) she was born into temps in the mid-30's which cows don't mind at all. Era licked her off as soon as she was born & then #DairymanDan made sure to dry her off even more with a towel.
Extreme then got to stay in the barn for a bit more than 24 hours to ensure she was completely dry before heading out to the cold. When #DairymanDan brought her out he made sure she was nestled down & cozy in her cornstalk bales.
I wanted a cute picture of a calf snuggled down in her stalks here but #DairymanDan said they also keep warm by moving & every time he'd try to sneak up & take a picture they'd jump up. Oh, well - you'll just have to imagine it!
It turns out calves are born with something called "brown fat" which helps keep calves warm too. We strategically place our huts facing south so that calves are protected from the north wind. Although Pam always keeps a close eye on each of our calves, in cold weather she pays even closer attention, as a skipped meal or any sign of illness can quickly become fatal. Obviously the calves' water freezes each day so we also make sure that they get a bucket of warm water in the middle of the day.
You might wonder why we don't bring them all inside, which I know I wondered at first. Bringing them inside, especially if it's not VERY well ventilated, can cause higher incidences of pneumonia & other sicknesses because they're sharing stale air with each other. Over the years Dan & his parents have learned that even in extreme cold we can take better care of our calves by caring well for them outside, even if it means we have to work out in the bitter cold!
We're doing our best to keep our calves warm but we are looking forward to this cold snap breaking as it does take more work to get machinery running, care for our animals, & stay warm ourselves!
How are you staying warm?
Growing up a city-girl, after marrying my dairy farmer husband and spending a few years abroad, we came home to expand the family dairy farm and want to share our journey & farm life with you!