Winter Work: If the cows ain’t happy…

Howdy Folks! It’s mighty cold this week in Dixie!

Although the crops are gathered and the cover crops have been planted, there are still plenty of things to be done on the farm. The first and foremost of these tasks is feeding the cattle through the winter. With no grass actively growing during the winter months, the cow’s entire daily intake has to be supplied by the farmer. Feeding a small herd though the winter months might not seem like much, but when the average cow weighs 1200 lbs and eats roughly 30-40 lbs of hay per day, for a small herd of 25 cows that totals up to almost 1000 lbs. of hay per day. So needless to say that keeping the cows fed is important.

cattle

If the cows ain't happy, the farmer ain't happy.

Another important thing that we do on our farm this time of year is take soil samples.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to take a good soil sample at least every other year and apply lime and fertilizer as necessary. Our sandy soils in south Alabama tend to be slightly acidic and periodically require lime to keep the soil pH within a range that is suitable for the crops grown in our region. It takes around 6 months for the pH to adjust, so we take samples and apply lime if necessary during the winter in order for the pH to be within range by the growing season.

Old Rotation soil testing

Jared pulling soil samples for an experiement at Auburn University's "Old Rotation"

(Psssst! Not sure what the Old Rotation is? Check this out: Oldest Continuous Cotton Rotation)

The winter months are fairly wet in our region which allows us to spend time in our shop to repair farm equipment.  Equipment failures are inevitable on a farm and they always seem to happen when you need that piece of machinery the most. When pressed for time, such as during harvest, broke and busted equipment may get patched to minimize downtime.  These patches will get you out of a tight, but generally need a little TLC over the winter months to be fixed properly so the breakdown doesn’t happen again. Winter is also a good time to prepare the tillage equipment for spring planting.

Harvest breakdowns

We had a serious breakdown this harvest on the peanut picker. The tongue almost pulled completely out of the body.

When we are not feeding cows, pulling soil samples, or fixing equipment, we are preparing our books for next year’s crop. Big decisions are made during the winter such as what to plant in the spring  and which field to plant it on, how the commodity will be marketed, and which seed variety (brand or type of seed) to plant are among a few of the important decisions that will have to be made. A good way to get insight on these decisions is to attend meetings such as the Beltwide Cotton Conference, the Alabama/Florida Peanut trade show, or AG CONNECT to get market analysis reports, hear what has worked best for other farmers, and see what is new in the pipeline for the following year.

I have heard people say that farmers only work 6-8 months out of the year. Farmers may not be in the field over the winter, but they are always working.  What do you think? Please feel free to respond!

 

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About Jared

I am a farmer from Southeast Alabama who is pursuing a degree in Agronomy and Soils to improve my farm management practices. I love farming and enjoy telling people about it!
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10 Responses to Winter Work: If the cows ain’t happy…

  1. Great post Jared! I love the photo of the equipment even if I TOTALLY HATE how much of a pain that would be to repair! Great illustration of some of the things you are busy with this winter!

  2. Samantha says:

    Love your blog! I’ve never been to a peanut farm, so I find this totally fascinating! I love reading about ag in other geographic regions. Good stuff :)

  3. Ryan Goodman says:

    Good way of putting it, “If the Cows Ain’t Happy…”

    We’re doing all the same here in Arkansas. Adding to that list, cleaning up fallen trees on fence lines.

  4. Jane says:

    A farmer’s work never ends, just the long day, then you start over again tomorrow. It is a worthy love to work the ground and see the results every year.

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