Winter Dairy Farming |
A Chilly Affair

Author: Johanna Laggis, Vermont Dairy Farmer

Johanna Laggis of Laggis Farm LLC is our guest blogger this week. Read on to learn about the importance of cow care in the winter.

It sure has been a long, cold winter! Up here in northern Vermont on Laggis Farm, we have had endless 20 below zero (some even colder) mornings and days that never got above zero. It’s a challenge to work outside all day long, take care of the animals, keep water pipes from freezing and all the equipment running in these conditions.

At the end of the day we farmers get to go inside for a warm meal and sleep between flannel sheets. What about the cows and calves? They need enough to eat and a comfortable place to sleep too.

Calf Care: caring for the newest members of the herd

Calves have to be warm and dry to be healthy. As temperatures drop, the amount of energy required to maintain health and growth goes up a lot. Our calf barn keeps the gnarly winds of winter away from the calves. Our Jersey calves drink lots of milk, wear protective blankets or jackets, and sleep in beds of deep, dry straw. They also get warm water to drink between feedings and when it is really cold, they get to wear fleece hats.

The protective jackets calves wear are fitted to go across the calf’s back and fasten around their back legs with a Velcro snap around their neck. It’s just like when people put on their jackets before going outside!

Caring for the Cows

Our 500 milking cows don’t need to wear fleece hats, but they do need enough to eat and a comfortable place to lie down. Cows produce a lot of heat in their rumen (one of the 4 compartments in their stomachs), which helps keep them warm. As long as they have enough to eat, fresh water to drink, and are protected from wind, they are happy and comfortable in the winter.

It is hard to believe that daylight savings time is here and it was 25 degrees below zero a few mornings ago. Recently hitting 15 degrees in the morning made it feel like a heat wave. All of the animals and farmers are ready for warmer days and maple sugaring weather.

How do you keep warm in the winter? Just like cows, we like fleece jackets. And there’s nothing like a steaming cup of hot cocoa made with milk! 

Sign up for our monthly newsletter!