Winter has finally arrived in Kansas and the chores on a ranch have gotten crazy! Luckily we are not scheduled to have any baby calves yet, so we are just making sure cattle are all cared for: fed and watered and have a dry place to sleep. But even that can be a big job depending on how much snow arrives! Today I planned to feed the cattle who are spending the first part of the winter eating up what the combine dropped when we harvested the soybeans and corn from this ground. But with snow, the natural feed is covered up and the girls need a bit of a snack to tide them over until the snow melts. So I took a big bale of hay to them before the temperatures got above freezing, and the ground thawed. I didn't want to get stuck!
Another important job in the cold weather is to provide clean water to cattle. That isn't so easy when the cows live on grass in a pasture. There isn't a water pump every mile or so, and we provide water in ponds. But as the temperature drops, the ponds freeze. As you may know, the edges freeze first, and the middle last. So as a cow looks for water, she steps on to the ice, usually breaking it a bit at the edge to allow her to drink. But as temperatures drop even further, the ice thickens on the edges, even though it may still be thin in the middle. That is when ponds become dangerous for cows. While looking for water, they may walk on the ice to the middle of the pond where they fall through the thinner ice and drown. So we spend time chopping a hole in the ice for them each day when temperatures are below freezing.