Harvest is complete. The weather is getting colder, and there’s snow on the ground.
Although farmers aren’t out in the field every day like they are throughout the warmer months, farmers are busy running their farms the whole winter, too. To find out more about what winter looks like on a South Dakota farm, we asked Peggy Greenway, a South Dakota farmer, to share her thoughts in this guest blog.
On our farm, we raise pigs and cattle, and we grow corn, soybeans and wheat. Though our active crop farming is done for the season, our livestock chores remain seven days a week, 365 days a year jobs.
We keep our cattle outdoors, so the winter weather makes a big difference. Their thick coat of hair keeps them comfortable, so since corn harvest, we’ve had our cows grazing out on corn stalks. The stalks provide nutrients, and the cattle’s manure provides fertilizer for our fields. We move them from field to field, bringing them closer to home as the temperatures decrease. When we have a big snowfall, like those nine inches we had earlier this year, we supplement their grazing with hay and silage. This gives them more energy to keep warm.
Although the cattle are out grazing all winter, we provide them with shelter from the cold and snow. The tree belts and four hoop barns close to our home protect them from the wind. For the most part, they’ll stay out and meander around the pasture. If the snow gets really deep, we might scrape some snow off a big area in the lot or pasture or lay down some straw to give them a dry place to lie down.
The calves from last year have been weaned since early October and we feed them in a large lot at another farm we rent. We sell those calves in January and another farmer will feed them out to market weight. We work with an animal nutritionist to make sure we feed our calves exactly what they need to keep them happy and healthy as they grow. That ration consists of ground hay, corn silage, modified wet distillers grain and some vitamins and minerals
When the cows start calving in late February, we keep them in the closest pasture to the farm or in the lots by the buildings for extra protection and so we can easily check on them several times a day.
If it’s really cold outside, we’ll warm the calves up and dry them off in the heated barn, and then they can go back outside with their moms where they have access to hoop barns for protection.