Are you ready for winter to end? I do appreciate bright and pretty snow, sparkling in the sunshine, but the gray and wet days are getting tiring and the vast fluctuations in temperature do get challenging. It’s easy to look forward to green grass and warm air.
While we all love sunny days with our cows out on pasture, the reality is that throughout the years and the seasons, there are some rather unlovely days to deal with, too. This messy winter season is certainly proof of that!
We outwinter the herd on a bedding pack, with an improvised windbreak composed of recycled metal sheeting and round bales of soybean or corn stalks.
We try to keep the cows out in the field for as long as possible on stockpiled pasture and cover crops (usually into December), as long as the soil stays firm enough. But with our heavy clay soils and intermittent thawing, there comes a time we have to resign ourselves to locking the cows up for the winter.
We are blessed with a concrete lot and hayshed with hayrack for the cows to reach through for their hay or baleage.
We use round bales of cornstalks for bedding. Sometimes we put the round bales in the manure spreader (after removing the netwrap) and drive back and forth around the bedding pack to distribute it. This also does a good job of scouring out the spreader after each manure-hauling episode.
Lately, we’ve been just unrolling the bales and pushing the stalks around with the spike on the skidsteer, which leaves a lumpier surface, but the cows seem to distribute it when they bounce out there to play on the fresh bedding. It’s fun to see what a party they have with it.
We are thankful that our cows adapt well to whatever the weather throws them, thanks to their dual purpose genetics. They look just as content on a winter day standing behind their wind break as they do on the best pasture day. We don’t have any trouble keeping enough condition on them over the winter, and they put on thick haircoats in the fall which shield them from the cold and dampness.
Nevertheless, like all of you, no doubt, we will find the warm and rich days of sun-drenched pastures very welcome. Here’s hoping you all are weathering this wild winter and keeping your spirits up.