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Posted 2/21/2012 2:47pm by Renae Schlatter.

Here we are closing in on the end of February and we haven't had much of a winter, by definition. I think we had enough snow for the snowplows to be out a total of three times this whole season. It has been a different winter than most. One positive is all the sunny days that we have had. This time of year in Northwest Ohio can often be so raw and dark, but we have had a good amount of sunshine.

Every year and every season has its challenges. This winter has been challenging mostly because we have had so very little frozen weather and the ground has been muddy! Our soil around here is heavy clay which gets very sticky when wet and trying to drive through it with any kind of machinery leaves big ruts behind. We also have to be careful where we let the cattle this time of year as they can track up the ground and basically tear up any grass root systems that were established. Our milk cows are directly behind the barn and eat on a concrete lot and have access to a loafing shed where they get fresh straw bedding every day.

I haven't gotten any good pictures this winter because things don't look very nice when it is so muddy. So, I'm using a couple of shots from last year when we did have some snow and frozen ground. In the winter the dairy and beef cattle get fed dry hay. We try to make a good share of the hay from our own pastures in the summer, but we simply don't have enough acres to supply all our needs. So, we do have to buy in some hay. We are very particular about they quality of hay we buy and the suppliers are questioned about their growing practices. The hay usually comes in on a semi and then either Kyle or Ralph will unload it with our Bobcat loader.

load of hay

unloading hay

Another job that needs done when the ground is frozen is hauling manure. The lot that the cows eat on and the loafing shed get hauled out whenever the ground is frozen enough to do so. This winter has been a little trickier and Ralph was hauling manure one night until about midnight because we had a cold snap and they were calling for it to warm up the next day. Some of these mornings have had enough frost in the ground that Kyle can get a few loads hauled out before the sun warms the ground up. We won't haul the loafing shed out any more this winter but will wait until late spring when things have dried up a bit. It is an excellent fertilizer for the pastures and they try to spread it on pastures that are struggling or that we are trying to get established. This is the only fertilizer that we use, no chemicals. The nice thing about grazing is that when the animals are out they aren't concentrated in one area and do their own manure hauling! But, since we aren't able to graze year round we have to do some of that work during the winter months.

Here is the tractor and the manure spreader.

tractor and manure spreader

And here is Kyle loading up the manure spreader from the loafing shed.

loading spreader

Like I said, these pictures are all from last year, but it gives the idea of what gets done. It's hard to believe that growing season is almost on us again. In the past we have usually let the cows back out to pasture sometime around the end of March, and that is sneaking up on us quickly!

We have been enjoying the different songs of the birds that are around and look forward to seeing what this coming growing season will bring us.