Dairy Pipeline: October 2005
Andy Overbay Dairy Extension Agent, Southwest Virginia
As hot and dry as it has been this season, it is hard to imagine even thinking about winterizing the farm as of yet; however, this is exactly the time to begin to prepare for "old Jack Frost." Careful considerations and proactive stances can really pay dividends in this time of escalating input costs.
First, think about the milking herd; cold weather means more confinement, so we need to be making plans for singeing hair and keeping tails clean during this time. Having adequate bedding supplies on hand is a must this time of year, as many materials become short as suppliers burn them for heating needs. Increased time in the barn calls for good ventilation. Is air flow changing the air in the barn or merely mixing it inside the facility?
Dry cows, heifers and young stock are always a challenge due to resources available on the farm. "Clean and dry" are the two inescapable terms to remember when winterizing these groups. It may sound crazy to talk about mud during a drought, but my experience has been that pathogen explosions generally follow times of hot, dry weather. As soon as the moisture comes back, disease and illness follow right behind. Fall always brings tremendous temperature swings and the ensuing problems with diseases like pneumonia are well documented. Daily (or more often) inspection of all animals on the farm is critical for prevention of animal losses during this time of transition,
Equipment and facilities cannot be overlooked for winterization. Again the hot, dry weather recently makes oil changes more necessary so by all means don't neglect this important step. Clean or replace air filters, replace fuel filters and lubricate bearings and joints to maximize the life and efficiency of your machinery. Remember too that antifreeze, like engine oil, has a lifespan. Merely adding more coolant may not be enough to fully protect your investment.
Barn equipment follows those same lines. Clean and check vacuum lines, maintain vacuum regulators and check liners and hoses regularly, replacing as needed. Remove all weeds and clutter from barn exterior walls. Such places create excellent places for rodents and other unwanted visitors to hide as they come in from the cold!