Simply stated, it’s COLD. We have these winters about every 20 years but some are saying they will be more frequent as we experience climate change. I abstain from the argument about whether this is caused by human factors, leaving that to those with better training than I. My only observation is a very personal one - it ain’t like it used to be!
What is the immediate and longer term impact of these sub-freezing temperatures? They are numerous. First is to watch the beeves consume what seems to be twice the hay ration as they do in moderate weather. We now include a bale of alfalfa in the rotation for every 2 bales of bahia grass hay. Alfalfa is a richer hay so it gives some pop to their metabolism. It’s also a lot more expensive so we are prudent but not foolishly so in its allocation. What we might save in expense today can cost us more later on in reduced weight gain for the suckling calves. We always seek that balance. Penny-wise and pound-foolish is something we always keep in mind.
Our winter pasture is much slower to recover from being grazed. It’s staying hunkered down until the weather warms into more normal winter temperatures. I suppose it knows that if it throws up a blade of grass, it will only freeze and die. Better safe than sorry say the oats and rye.
The pigs? They don’t require anything new other than what they have in more normal times, they just eat more of it. Pigs are very adaptive. Hot weather is harder on them than cold in my experience. Like the cow, they just eat a lot more of their normal bounty while the sun shines, spend the rest of their day basking in the sun, and huddle up en masse at night. Only danger is that every so often, a big one rolls over on a small one at night as they sleep in tight bunches.
There are human effects as well. We blew out the plumbing at the bunk house when the first hard freeze came. Instead of draining the entire system, we thought we could get away with dripping the faucets. We knew we were in trouble when we saw the drips formed into icicles. Sometimes we have to learn lessons twice; we have made this mistake before. Darn.
But there are benefits to come in the Spring. The orchards like as much freeze time as they can get. More is not too much. “Bring it on” they cry. “We’ll make more fruit.”
Insects take a step back.
But the biggest gain will be in the grasses. Anytime Mother Nature feels threatened by conditions, she comes roaring back as soon as the conditions turn favorable. Just as the grasses jumped out of the ground once they got rain last Fall, they will do the same when the weather turns warm. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.