It may seem funny to call 20 degrees a heat wave, but after last weeks -50 wind chill temperatures this is a huge!! Our cows are elated and we can tell because they are producing more milk.
We made it through this rough weather with only mild frostbite on two cows. And those cases were because the cows decided to lay in a snow bank instead of the warm coverall building. I guess that is what we get for giving them the freedom of choice. Just like humans, cows sometimes don’t make the best decisions.
Severe frostbite can be really bad for cows. They will most typically get frostbite on their teat ends. The frostbite will cause their skin to get flakey. Inside those flakes of skin bacteria can hide and cause udder infections. This is on top of the frostbite just plain old hurting. We take every precaution to make sure this doesn’t happen and that our cows stay healthy.
We protect our cows from frostbite by providing them dry and clean areas to lay, protection from the wind and drying their udders off completely after milking. We also apply a special organic approved winter teat dip before they leave the parlor. This provides a barrier between the wind and their skin. Those cows that have large udders or are prone to lay outside in unprotected areas, we keep in our barn.
So how do we know that our cows are happy now that it is warmer? As farmers we cannot just ask the cows “so how are you feeling today? Is there something you need from us?” Well, we can ask those questions (and believe me Tim talks to the cows all the time) but their answer is hard to read. A head rub, lick or blank stare actually can tell us something about how our cows feel, we just have to watch carefully.
Cows that feel well and are comfortable will behave in natural ways. A typical healthy cow will eat, drink, chew their cud, socialize with other cows and sleep. A cow will spend most of their day chew cud and relaxing. A comfortable cow is a happy cow. When a cow is not stressed, she will eat more and relax more. More eating and relaxing results in more milk produced.
This last week when the weather was so bad, our cows were not happy. They weren’t happy because they had to go outside to eat. We keep their feeders outside to minimize the amount of manure in their bedding area, therefore keeping resting areas clean and dry. The feeders are in a protective area, but the cows still minimized the time they were eating.
It looks like this weather will keep up until Sunday. Then we are expecting more single digit temps. We can only pray that the ground-hog will not see his shadow next week and we will have an early spring like last year.
Here is to hoping,
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.