It was cold yesterday when I turned the cattle and sheep out, about 8° F, with a thin blowing snow. The ground is extremely icy after Sunday’s thaw and the two older cows stepped warily. (A cow can’t survive if she becomes injured or ill and can’t stand up; nerve damage ensues and her organs fail — this health crisis is called “bovine recumbency” by veterinary textbooks, or a “downer cow” by farmers. Downer cows almost inevitably have to be slaughtered).
I debated what to do. Having a job off the farm means I can’t be flexible and turn animals out for an hour or two. They are either inside or out until I snap off the lights in my classroom, change my clothes, and return after 3 PM.
I considered keeping everyone inside again for the day, but animals are worried by changes in routine. I considered leaving the cows in and simply turning the bouncy, nimble steers out, but separation would have been another stress and the herd would have spent the day bellowing for each other — no fun for the neighbors. I also knew the weather that was on its way.
It’s here today. This morning it -26° F and, given the 20-30 mph gusts, much, much colder with windchill. By noon it is due to warm up to 14° and -35° windchill.
The animals will eat their hay in the barn today and keep each other as warm as possible. Fingers crossed that the truck will start and the water run.
In the spirit of my New Year’s Resolution not to complain, I remind myself that we had these circa -30° F temperatures regularly for almost six months last winter and “spring,” so thus far this year we’ve been lucky.