When you own a farm, someone always works on Christmas. There are cows to feed and bed, waterers to check and calves to be born. On Christmas, we keep our fingers crossed that Mother Nature is kind to us. Warmer temperatures give us a better chance of fully-functioning equipment, meaning we can spend more time with family rather than fixing things around the farm. If a farmer can get through Christmas and New Year’s without bitter cold and freezing equipment, it’s definitely a more pleasant holiday.
As we all know, Wisconsin winters can be harsh. We have certainly had our fair share of bitter cold holidays where the tractor didn’t start, or the skid steer didn’t work because of the below-freezing temperatures. We work hard to keep things going, but if all else fails, we find a way to do things differently. When this happens, it adds extra hours to the day where we aren’t home with family celebrating the holidays.
One Christmas I remember very well was during the winter of 1998 when we built our barn. The temperature was so cold that we were only able to stop at church for a short time, and then had to go right back to work caring for the cows. Luckily, even with below-freezing temps, the cows are very content. Cows will typically adjust their caloric intake by eating more food in order to stay warm. This makes it extra important to ensure that they have access to plenty of food and unfrozen water during these cold winter months. And, those high-tech side curtains that allow a cool breeze to enter the barns during the summer months are pulled down to block the wind chill and keep the barns approximately 15 degrees warmer than the temperature outside.
Christmas time may pass, but the cold weather certainly doesn’t leave us once the new year arrives. These below-freezing temps also seem to make appearances throughout January and February — for even a week or two at a time! As the winter drags on, the hours of work on the farm get longer, and all of us get more and more tired. In the bitter, windy cold, even the sound of the fabric of your jacket crinkles differently. One year during a cold week, I noticed a day where my jacket finally didn’t crinkle. It was still zero degrees outside, but there was no wind. I actually found myself feeling some relief.
There is something special about caring for the cows on Christmas — as long as it isn’t too cold. This year, I’ll make sure to ask Santa for a beautiful snow-covered ground and the sun in the sky on Christmas day. Happy Holidays, everyone!