Winter is inevitable. At times, it is a mild affair. At other times, snow piles up higher than a man. Preparing your homestead and farm are important if you want to ensure the highest chance of you, your livestock and your equipment coming through the winter unscathed and ready for spring planting.
Here are some things that should be done. If it’s already too cold to do some of these chores, then wait for a warmer winter day to tackle them.
Check the seals around your windows and doors. Improperly sealed doors and windows account for the largest amount of heat loss, and a huge waste of energy. Plastic sheeting, cloth drapes and curtains all work to reduce heat loss. Insulating a poorly uninsulated home can be costly but can yield huge rewards going forward.
Replacing an old, inefficient furnace can reduce waste and increase savings. For a wood stove, clean and inspect your chimney or flue. Make sure you have an overabundance of wood for your wood stove, especially an emergency supply for large snowfalls. Have a large supply of firewood in and near the house if you live in an area where snows typically reach great heights.
Having an emergency supply of food, water, medical supplies and blankets for cold weather emergencies is important. Canned or dry food, and a means to heat your food, can make the difference between feast and famine in a massive blizzard.
You don’t want to seal up your barn super tight if it is a livestock barn. Airflow is necessary to prevent a host of respiratory issues with your animals. Eliminating as many cold drafts as possible is sufficient enough to keep your animals warm.
For areas of a barn that need to be heated, then fill cracks, weather strip doors and windows, and inspect furnaces and heaters to make sure everything is running top notch.
Take the time before the big chill comes to thoroughly inspect and clean your barns, repair any fencing you need to fix, and prepare supplies to be easily accessible and dry.
Prepare any winter clothing your animals need before the freeze. Mend horse and cattle blankets. Any new purchases of blankets should be made before severe weather hits, as these tend to disappear from feed and tack stores quickly.
Be sure you have adequate supplies of forage on hand. If not, purchase as soon as you can. I realize haying season is well past and it is not time to get the baler out. There are also financial considerations to make. If you are short on cash and fodder, perhaps trading and bartering can work; it has for me! Conserve your forage as best you can while making sure your animals have enough calories for the cold months. Remember: Livestock burn through calories fast at this time of year to stay warm, and extra food is needed.
Livestock also will need a constant supply of water. Eating snow reduces body heat, and it takes six buckets of snow to equal one bucket of water. Water tank heaters are the best option for your animal’s water tanks. You will need to monitor them closely as to prevent water pipe freezing. Horses also have a knack for kicking heaters out of a tank, so you may have to improvise a cover.
Keep any water tank clean, checking often and screening out organic matter to prevent build-up.
If you have barn cats, be sure they have a warm insulated place to sleep in the barn.
For outdoor dogs, provide them a warm place in the barn. During extreme cold, consider bringing dogs indoors.
Tractors and other vehicles should have oil changed to a lighter oil for winter. Check your hydraulic lines for leaks and repair as necessary. Replace antifreeze in all of your vehicles every two years. If possible, keep tractors, trucks and other equipment in sheds, barns and garages during the cold months. Diesel equipment may need to be plugged in for reliable starting. Gas tractors should definitely be sheltered if possible, as gas engines take sitting idle for longer periods hard.
If you have any snowplows, keep them easily accessible for rapid attachment to equipment.
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