April 11 2024 05:01 PM

We change features within our barns along with the changing seasons to create fresh air and a cooler environment for our cattle.

I swear one of the absolute best sensations is opening the house windows for the first time in the spring. Feeling that breeze and fresh air spill into a stuffy house is the epitome of spring to me. On the farm, we get to experience that same fresh, renewed feeling in a few other ways as well.

When the temperatures start to warm and the snow melts away, we’re more than ready to let the breeze blow through the barns for the cattle. While it’s important to keep curtains and doors shut throughout the cold, blustery winter months to keep our cows warm and minimize sickness-inducing drafts, we’re always eager to start opening things up as we inch closer to summer.

I’ve always been impressed with the way freestall barns function in both the winter and summer months (at least here in the Midwest where we experience extreme temperatures and precipitation in each season). The ability to go from completely closed to having all the walls essentially open in a matter of minutes is incredibly functional.

The option to open and close curtains throughout the day as winds shift, rains fall, or when the sun is really beating down allows us to keep our cows as comfortable as possible. We also can’t forget the many large fans we have ready to move air around whenever the heat starts to hit us in the coming months.

On our farm, we also put large wooden roller doors and freezer strips up around our robotic milking units for a few months each winter to keep the equipment from freezing. As soon as we are confident the temperatures will stay above about 20°F outside the barn, we pull those big freezer strips down, remove the doors, and give the whole area a much-needed power wash. The openness is always astonishing and truly marks the end of winter in our books.

Even after a mild winter, we’re happy to soak up the sunshine while out in the fields and feel that sweet spring breeze wash over us as we work with our cattle each and every day. There’s really nothing quite like working outside in the fresh air, and this transition between seasons is a strong reminder of just that.

Molly Ihde (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.