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Late winter days on the farm

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Although it seems there is not much to do in the winter on a farm, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work which people don’t think about.  Many people realize the animals still need to be cared for…that is a given.  But, as winter draws to a close, it is the start of calving season for many beef farmers, kidding season for goat farmers, and lambing season for sheep farmers.  Winter days in the barn can bring some extra jobs, as well.  Water bowls can freeze, straw can become wet even faster than normal because of the snow and animals that graze at other times during the year need supplemental feed.

Since my husband is a dairy farmer, his barn work is fairly steady year-round.  He keeps himself plenty busy looking after the animals and making sure they are healthy and well-cared for.  My father-in-law is in charge of the fields.  Winter brings with it the need to clear snow (this year a little less than normal), but it also is the prime time to get ready for spring planting.  My father-in-law takes pride in being out on the field as soon as the conditions are right, and to do that, he has to have his preparation work done by early spring.

Crop planning is an important job.  He has to figure out which crops will be planted on which fields, using crop rotation.  Because each crop has different nutrient requirements, changing the crop which is planted in a field from year to year can reduce the need for fertilizers.  Crop rotation can also reduce the need for pesticides, since some diseases and insects can be controlled simply through planting a different crop the following year.

Machinery has to be prepared for the coming work.  You would not drive a car across Canada after it has sat for a long period of time without doing maintenance -  it is the same with farm equipment.  Oil needs to be changed, filters need to be checked (and replaced if needed), and equipment has to be greased.  Preparing machinery for spring also includes making sure there is nothing which needs to be replaced, bolts are tight and guards are in place.

Regardless of what a farmer has on his or her farm, the spring is a busy time.  Farmers know soon they will be working longer days and doing a larger variety of jobs.  The seemingly quiet winter will suddenly be replaced by the busy spring.

Farms are kind of like a river: they may look quiet and frozen on the outside, but underneath they are always moving.

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Posted by OFAC on March 15th, 2011 :: Filed under Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Weather,winter
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