Frigid Conditions Don't Slow Wisconsin Dairy

Wisconsin dairy farmer Julie Maurer became so warm the other day she actually removed her coat while working in the barn.

Small victories matter when the thermometer climbs to 7 degrees.

Maurer still wore four layers of clothing but ditching the coat was welcome relief from the days of 22 below (with a wind chill of minus 50). December also brought an uncharacteristic 29 inches of snow to her town of Newton, located about 5 miles west of Lake Michigan’s shores in the northeastern part of the state.

Maurer doesn’t recall a harsher winter as a Newton native.

“Typically we either get cold weather or snowy weather but usually not both at the same time,” said Maurer, who figures a foot of snow remained at the dairy farm in early January.

Maurer and her staff of 25 employees, which includes six family members, stay warm by using common sense and dressing appropriately. Some also benefit from a new gadget – battery-operated warming insoles that slip inside their shoes.

“The weather can be brutal but you have to be prepared and dress for it, that’s for sure,” she said. “We wear insulated pants and jackets and apart from my fingers and toes once in a while, I really haven’t been too cold.”

Of course, the bigger priority is assuring the farm’s 1,100 cows are protected from the elements. The cows live in a barn that usually remains open on all sides to allow the breeze to blow through. But heavy curtains now enclose the barn, keeping the wind out and containing the cows’ collective body heat. Maurer said it’s 10 to 15 degrees warmer in the barn as a result.

Maurer can’t wait for the first signs of spring to arrive but until then, there is the daily commitment to the cows and producing milk that consumes everyone’s focus. There’s little time to let the weather get them down.

 “Whatever has to be done, you have to buck up and you do it,” she said.