This winter was a long one and a hard one for dairy farmers (below, the Troxel family in Hanna, Indiana braves the subzero January snowstorm to feed calves).
Besides the huge challenge of just working outside in the super low temperatures we experienced in Indiana this winter (40 below, anyone?), farmers also had to deal with losing electricity (electricity is so important on a dairy farm most farmers have backup generators), freezing water lines (can’t milk the cows if the lines are frozen!), snowy roads (the milk truck has to be able to get to the farm!), and the effects of the cold on the cows, especially, the baby calves.
But spring is coming now! Yay!
Farmers across the state are looking forward to warmer temperatures, no snowy roads, and the chance to get back into the fields again.
For some farmers, spring is calving season. Most dairy farmers in Indiana have baby calves year-round, but some “seasonal calving” farms only have babies in the springtime. This means that every cow on the farm will have her calf in about a 60 day window-so the farmers will have lots of hungry little baby calves to bottle feed! (Below, Foerg and Forgey River-View Farms in Logansport, Indiana are seasonal calvers who use an innovative milk barrel to feed all their spring babies.)
Most dairy farmers in Indiana grow all or part of their cows’ food, so spring is planting season. Getting the fields ready to plant can be time consuming, and knowing when it is the perfect time to put the first seeds into the ground takes a lot of knowledge and skill. Dairy farmers are lucky because they are able to recycle their cows’ nutrient-rich manure as fertilizer, so they wouldn’t need to use synthetic fertilizers.
If you’re out driving on country roads this spring, make sure to be courteous and drive safely around tractors and planters.
Spring is one of the few times that cows and farmers both like the outside temperature. Cows have big personal heaters in their stomachs (like all ruminant animals, they can actually keep themselves warm just by eating more) so they generally like sweater weather or cooler temperatures. In the springtime, the curtains used to keep the bitter winter wind out of the cows’ barns will be raised so the fresh spring breeze can come through. Once it starts getting hot in the summer time (or hot for a cow, which would be t-shirt weather for most of us humans), farmers switch on giant fans and even misters to help cows stay cool.