Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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!

The girls (as I call my cows) all were happy to see me and dug into the alfalfa bale! They act like I brought them candy!

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.
Luckily my son was with me on this day and wielded the axe! I am not as fast at swinging the axe over my head to chop the hole (and frankly, I get tired much faster).  But he does it quickly and efficiently. Also, he likes to chop a square and then push the square of ice that he cuts out down into the water and then below the ice into the middle of the pond!
The cattle seem to know we are making their drinking hole and they wait patiently until we are done. Then they hustle over to drink! Even if they push one another into the hole, or if they break through the ice here, it is very shallow and they can't be injured.
Roo the cowdog likes to tag along with us, but she usually stays in the truck--she's not stupid! The truck is warm and dry and the cows will usually walk to the window to check out the truck and let Roo lick them on the nose.


  1. Thanks for this explanation of the winter feed for grass fed cows. I had been wondering how cows could be "grass fed" in the winter.

    1. You are right! Grass fed in cold weather climates is pretty hard! But, realistically all cows are grass fed most of their life. Even when we bring them home from the pasture in the worst of winter, they are fed hay. I can't afford to feed my cows grain! Grain is used only to fatten up the calves the last 120 days or so in the feedyard. So even grain finished, is mostly grass fed!!

    2. I don't think most people stop to think about that, but a good portion of the U.S. is about the 37th Parallel where grass doesn't grow (or is under snow) at this time of year. Raising cattle on grass and finishing them on grain makes the best use of the grass and grain resources we have in the U.S.!

    3. Thank u for the tip on the square hole in the pond. I'm a newbie at 77 y/o in Arkansas with a herd of 32 and having an interesting experience. Oh and yes a female. I love every one of them. No snow here yet. Blessings for ur son. GG

    4. I think you can cut any kind of a hole for the cattle to water, but the square makes sense as an axe cuts straight and the square is pretty easy to cut both sides and then the ends. Or vice versa!! I don't think it really matters, just so long as the girls can get to water!


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