Article

Farmers Prepared for Winter’s Big Chill

December 21, 2016

Rob Hemond understands the bitter cold comes with the territory when you’re a dairy farmer in Maine.

His family’s farm sits about two-and-a-half hours from the Canadian border, meaning several winter days of 10-below temperatures is often a harsh reality.

The period beginning around mid-January is especially a time he dreads.

“You just can’t wait for it to be over,” he said.

Hemond’s family has been milking cows since 1945, upgrading their facilities through the years to better manage the elements. Their modern barn has push-button remote doors on each end that rise and close as workers on tractors drive in and out during the day. The doors help manage the temperature and keep the occasional winds from gusting through the barn.

“Our cows are safe from the weather and snow,” he said. “The cold is one thing, but when you add the winds you change everything. That’s why the barn doors are so important.”

Calves born during the winter months can be susceptible to pneumonia, so it’s critical the team acts quickly when there is a new arrival. They use a hot air heater to dry the newborn calves quickly before placing a coat around their body to keep them warm.

“When a calf is born in the winter, it will shiver at first. We dry their fur immediately and take the right precautions to prevent it from getting sick,” he said.

While the animals are protected, Hemond said it’s also critical to make sure the farm’s machinery isn’t impacted by the cold. They use engine block heaters on tractors that keep the oil and antifreeze warm.

“When you turn the key, it’s like it’s July,” he said. “The last thing you want is for your equipment to break down because that can impact how a cow eats. It’s important we maintain their feeding schedule because our cows are burning more energy keeping warm during the winter months.”

 

Learn more: How Cows Stay Warm in Winter

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