Dec. 10 2021 08:00 AM

With fall field work behind us and cooler temperatures rolling in, we’ve been busy winterizing our dairy farm.

While spring and fall are filled with nonstop hustle and bustle in the fields, this time of year is when we turn our focus back to both catching up and getting ahead with projects around the farm. Before the temperatures dip into the negatives, there are a lot of projects on our to-do list to ensure our cows stay cozy and healthy throughout the unpredictable Iowa winter.

With our crops all harvested, we’ve been working on cleaning out pens and emptying our manure pits before it freezes so we have plenty of storage available for the coming months. Getting all our fields covered with a coat of manure before we work them up is an essential step in preparing for spring planting and a bountiful harvest next year.

Equipment maintenance is taking place as we have time. On the occasional above-freezing days, we’ve been power-washing tractors, skid loaders and other dirty equipment. The remaining harvest equipment sitting out is being tucked into sheds for storage. We’ve been progressively swapping worn tires for more winter traction, greasing equipment, and switching over to a winter-blend fuel.

As for our cattle, we’re checking automatic waterers to make sure they are heating correctly to prevent freezing during the harsh cold. Freestall barn and other cattle shed curtains and doors are being closed to regulate the temperature in the barns. Our young calves are being switched over to a winterized milk replacer to provide higher levels of protein and energy for optimal growth during the colder months.

In our robotic milking area, we’ve been hanging custom wood doors in front of the box stall where the cows get milked to keep cold air out and warm air in. As temperatures get even colder, we’ll add freezer strips surrounding the rest of the open robotic milking area for the cows to walk in and out of, blocking even more cold air. Our heaters throughout the robotic milker area are going full steam, and we have fans strategically placed throughout to move air toward the robotic milker arms to prevent ice from forming.

Every day, we inch closer to the negative temperatures, brisker winds, treacherous ice, and blizzard conditions we know are coming. So, we’ll continue to take advantage of the mild winter days in order to set our farm up for a safe, successful winter.

Molly Schmitt

The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and four robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.