Winter On The Farm
We get asked on a regular basis, so what do you do with your animals for the winter? I thought I would take a few minutes and answer that question and include a little info on what winter is like for us here on the farm.
First off, winter is a time for us workers here on the farm to relax and decompress a little. Having the time in the evenings to sit around and relax with the boys is very nice, not to mention getting to eat supper before 8pm. It is also is a great time for us to catch up on many projects we have on the farm. For example, this winter we have added a new walk-in freezer, added some new upgraded nesting boxes for our laying hens, serviced all the equipment, added a new feed bin, split tons of firewood (we heat our house and hot water with wood), trimming back trees from fence lines, cleaning out the brooders and so on. So as you can see, there is still plenty to be done. Not to mention we still have two home delivery routes that need to be run each week, orders for retail/restaurants to be delivered and the weekly Saturday Farmers market. Also during the winter months we continue to take pigs and cows to the processor to be processed almost every week right through the winter.
I am sure some of you are saying, "that sure sounds relaxing" lol. During the spring, summer and fall it is very hard for us to have time to get these little projects done, so we always try to get as many out of the way in the winter.
As for the animals, for the most part this time of year it is all about keeping them something to eat, something to drink and somewhere to stay somewhat dry. Our cows stay out all winter, they are tough creatures and really all they want is hay, water (that can be a challenge during the coldest weather!) and somewhere to lay that is not muddy. Most of our pigs are in a large open air barn that we deep bed with straw. This gives them a warm and dry spot to lay while also still being able to dig and be pigs. This also allow us to build a bedding pack that holds all their "waste" until warmer months where we can spread it on pastures. The chickens are much like the pigs, they are in an open air covered barn that keeps them dry and protected from the worst of the weather. The chickens are also deep bedded with straw, again giving them the chance to scratch around and dig but also holding those nutrients until we can spread on the pasture in the growing season.
The sign for us that spring is coming soon is always the arrival of the first baby meat chicks of the year. We always get our first shipment of chicks around the middle part of February, they are raised for several weeks in a climate controlled brooder. This keeps the chicks warm and protected until they go out on pasture at approximately 3 weeks old. At that point spring is here for us, time to get started in the garden, get pigs out on pasture, laying hens on pasture and the cows grazing! Before you know it those chickens will be ready to process!
So as you can see, it is pretty much non-stop for us here on the farm, but we do enjoy our little slower pace in the winter!