We have really been hit hard with winter weather in the last 6 days. The first round of bad weather dumped around a foot of snow on our farm. We need the moisture but when it comes in the form of snow it means a lot more work for us. Last week when the first snow fell, Kevin spent over eight hours in the middle of the night on the skid loader moving snow out of our driveways. Then around Saturday our weather forecast started calling for more snow for last night and today. Kevin got back on the skid loader to move the already huge piles of snow further back from the driveway so we would have more room to pile the new snow.
Yesterday Kevin tried to get everything ready around the farm for the snow. He ground all the cattle feed he could so he wouldn’t have to do it in the blizzard like conditions we are having today. Around 5:15 this morning, Kevin decided he better get out and open up the driveways. Conner and I headed to the hog barns to feed our sows. When we looked towards the highway it was obvious the MODOT road crew had not been able to get down our road yet. That meant no one would be able to make it to the farm to work in the barns with us. Conner and I knew we were in for a long day.
Conner and I headed to the gestation barns first and fed the pregnant sows. Then we started to refill the feed dumps for the next feeding. Next we walked through all of the sows to make sure they were eating their feed. Then we headed to the farrowing barns (where the sows give birth) to feed those sows. We checked all of the sows and pigs to make sure they were eating and to make sure the sows were milking well. While we were doing this our electricity flickered and went out briefly. We were thankful it came back on because we had enough work to handle at that moment.
Kevin was keeping busy trying to get our driveways open so he could feed the cattle. Rachelle was on call to help Kevin once he got the driveways open. When the driveways were opened, she went out and opened gates for him. In the meantime she shoveled off sidewalks and walkways around the farm.
Around 10:45 Kathy, my mother-in-law, arrived at the hog barns. When I looked up and saw her I was shocked. When I asked her how in the world she made it to the barns she told me with a big smile on her face, “by tractor but it wasn’t a quick trip.” Gary, my father-in-law, drove her there in the tractor because they couldn’t get out of their driveway in their truck. Their gravel road was also closed due to all of the snow making a tractor the only option for transportation. That’s the dedication of farmers and ranchers, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, we will do whatever it takes to care for our animals.
Kathy knew Conner and I had things covered at the barns but she also knew we had a lot of work to do for just two people. It was a welcome sight to see her arrive, even if it had to be by tractor. She came prepared though; she had her clothes packed in a bag with her so she could spend the night at our house and help us out again in the morning. That’s the dedication of farmers and ranchers, we make sure our animals are well cared for before we take care of ourselves. Kathy left her house, which had no electricity, to help Conner and me make sure the sows were taken care of. She didn’t even call to tell REA (the power company) about the power outage at her house because her first concern was our livestock.
I know one thing, I am sure glad our hogs are inside our warm barns today, especially since they are so lean and have very little body fat to keep them warm. The sows which gave birth this morning delivered their pigs in a dry and warm barn. And the new pigs had a warm heat lamp to dry off under, they didn’t have to lie on the frozen ground and shiver in this cold weather. The sows and pigs are all dry inside our barns and they didn’t have to fight the blizzard conditions to get access to feed and water. Sure, we (the farmers) had to fight the blizzard conditions to get to our barns but once inside, we were able to work without our coats on and tend to the needs of our sows.
When Kevin was a boy, his family raised their hogs outside on dirt lots. When snow storms came like this, his parents spent all day trying to open up the lots to get the sows access to feed and water. Kevin and his brother would spend the day hauling hot water to try and thaw out the frozen waterers. They normally froze back up before they could move to the next lot though. Once they had made sure all of the sows had gotten at least one drink, they would start hauling straw to bed the sows with. They would haul 7 or 8 pickup trucks full of straw to the sows, each truck bed held about 40 bales of straw per load. They would scoop out the wet bedding and replace it with dry straw. And if a sow was giving birth on a day like today, unfortunately there wasn’t much you could do to save the pigs; they normally froze to the ground before you could get to them to help dry them off. And the sows teats would be frost bitten; that’s pretty uncomfortable I am betting. This is why I am so thankful for our hog barns -our sows and pigs are always warm and content in the winter.
And tonight, its past 7:30 and Kevin is still outside working to open up all of our driveways as snow is still gently falling. This is just part of farming, it’s part of the good, the bad and the ugly and I wouldn’t trade one bit of it!