With the passing of the months has come (finally) some cold weather here in Southern New Hampshire. We had an extremely mild and unseasonably warm fall and early winter in 2015. That mild weather didn't last into the new year! The cold temps that we've had over the past week have not only changed the way that we dress when we head out to care for the animals but has also changed some of the extra work that we have to do to keep things running smoothly.
One addition that we must make when the mercury dips below freezing is to install water heaters in our cattle, chicken, and pig waterers. Ice is an issue and if the animals don't have access to clear, ice-free water, their health could be compromised and in the case of the laying hen, egg production could go down. We always find it amusing that the demand for fresh eggs goes up in the wintertime at exactly the same time that the hens want to take a break! We use lights in our hoophouses to help prolong the perceived daylight, hence keeping egg production steadier.
Winter can be a tough time for animals but with little adjustments to the routine, we can keep them comfortable and productive. Our tractor usage goes up quite a bit in the winter as we feed out big round bales to our cattle. The grass doesn't grow in the colder months so feeding them grass that has been dried and baled is the closest we can get to the green stuff this time of year.
The slower pace during these dark months is something to look forward to and always a time for us to reflect on the past season and to plan for the season ahead. The winter on a pature-based farm almost seems like a holding pattern, waiting for the warmth of the sun to push the grass to green again and to assume grazing as usual. Winter is a forced quiet time not only for the animals but also for everyone who works the land. Yes, there is still a TON to do but the work is different, not as physically demanding as at the height of the season and there aren't as many mouths to feed each day. We always look forward to the warmer months but we also love the four seasons on the farm as each one brings a different feeling, a different view of the land, and a different perspective to this work that we do.