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Year begins with roller-coaster temperatures

Hopefully weather will hold for late-February start of calving season

Joseph helps Grandpa John with birthday cake duties.

January started with a mild temperature that allowed us to do a few more out-of-season projects. Early in the new year, Gregory and John worked on the holding corral at the Landis pasture. Later we used the 4450 tractor and the post hole auger to put in nine more railroad ties for the back corral. We’ve slowly been building a few more pens and putting up more windbreaks.

On Jan. 6 Leon and Audrey Ochs and Norbert Kratchmer came over and helped us skin out a couple of butcher bulls. It turned out to be a beautiful day and we were able to find a place out of the wind. We didn’t even get our bare hands cold.

The next day was quite a bit cooler and it steadily got colder. For 12 days we were very cold with a terrible wind. A few days showed -40 C on the thermometer with a wind chill that made it -50 C. We had to feed the cows easily twice as much as their normal ration and changed where we fed them based on which way the wind was blowing.

We also made sure they had lots of fresh straw for bedding. The horses were also cold and required more feed to stay warm. The broodmares and the riding horses were very thankful for the brush to get out of the wind. The weanling foals had the best place possible up in the corral with the shed and lean-to to break the wind, but Juan the Sailor, the 30-year-old gelding living with them, couldn’t eat enough to stay warm at those temperatures. I put a nice wool blanket on him and he was very grateful.

We celebrated John’s 74th birthday a day late on Jan. 17. We had him and Barb over for supper and Joseph was proud to help grandpa blow out his candles.

The cold spell broke a couple of days later, but it remained windy with several days of heavy fog. We greatly enjoyed the warmer temperatures but very few days were actually nice.

On Jan. 20 we cut up meat with Leon, Audrey, and Norbert’s help, which was greatly appreciated as more hands made the job go quicker.

Prepping for calving season

ON Jan. 25 Gregory and John started getting our calving facility ready. They had to do some welding on the maternity pen where an unhappy heifer had tried to jump out last year and wrinkled the top rail. Gregory also started moving panels into place for the calving pens. It is nice to have a place where the cow can take care of her calf without help from others. We’re able to keep a new calf out of the wind, in the dry straw, and move them under the heater if it gets cold. We are due to start calving around Feb. 21.

As January closed, Gregory was able to make some final adjustments to the single-bale tub grinder that we had purchased in December. It has been doing a very good job breaking up the stemmy bales and chopping the straw fine enough so that the cows eat it instead of just bed in it.

By the end of January and into the beginning of February the temperatures were actually above normal. A few days were even above zero. We are praying that the rest of the winter will continue to be mild and that we don’t have another extreme cold snap. The animals have such a hard time when it goes from 0 C to -40 C.

About the author


Heather Eppich is a young former Idaho rancher building a new farm and family with her husband and young son, near Handel, Sask. Contact her at: [email protected]

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