January 18, 2022

From the Barns: Lighting the way

Winter has finally arrived! The beauty of snow and frozen ground is that it limits what projects are possible and lets us focus on items we would like to attend to but are often pushed off the priority list by the necessity of timeliness of field work. Feeding cows and feedlot cattle gets top billing every day as it must, but brush cutting and equipment repair has replaced manure pumping and tillage work to fill out the ever-lengthening days.

I’ve been installing some new LED lighting around the barn lots, not so much to extend our days into the evening, but more so to light our way early in the morning while we wait on the sun to make an appearance and illuminate the problems and challenges of a new day.

Frozen waterers and sluggish equipment go hand in hand with sub-zero mornings. Our water bowls are designed to have no electric heat and rely on free-flowing water to remain ice free, good plan as long as the electricity to run the pumps remains on. Fortunately, several of our houses are on the same power grid as the cattle and we are all trained to come running if the power goes down. We have several levels of backups to keep the water flowing, depending on the cause and longevity of the outage. It seems like, however, we have to have a freeze-up to remind us to have the backup plans ready to go.

During the warm-ups we have been weaning calves and preg checking cows. My job lately has been to bring the truck and haul the stock while the sorting and pregging is being done; this lets us finish before dark most of the time and that’s always preferred. Once we’ve gathered the herd we are pretty much committed to roll right on with preg checking the next morning, which probably explains why I got a call the other day to show up in a blinding blizzard and ice-covered roads to haul home the cows that had pregged out.

I must admit it had me questioning the wisdom of some younger cattlemen and a “should be retired” vet who were all soaked and frozen when I arrived. Good thing Linda had stopped by with coffee and warm blueberry bars a little earlier in the day. Evidently, when common sense fails to make an appearance, hot coffee can save the day.

Steve Foglesong

Steve Foglesong

Astoria, Ill.