Dairy farmers fend off effects of freezing cold

Kent County

BOWNE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Dairy farmers don’t get snow days.

SwissLane Dairy Farms near Alto said that some of its employees worked overnight, helping the livestock battle the brutal cold.

“Cows have to be milked. Cows have to be fed,” said Annie Link, a fourth-generation dairy farmer.

When 24 Hour News 8 visited, the barns were barely visible through the blowing snow. It may not be ideal conditions, but it’s the reality for the farm’s staff and cattle.

“It’s hard to even move when you have so many layers on,” Link said.

She said staff may have more beef with the cold than the cattle.

“They actually made about 90 pounds of milk per cow … yesterday,” Link told 24 Hour News 8. “So, they’re telling us that they’re happy.”

With the whipping winds in these bone-chilling conditions, staff has added plastic curtains for up for wind control.

“We kind of batten down the hatches, put all the curtains down,” she said.

Keeping the cows’ water troughs unfrozen also poses challenges in the freezing weather.

The farm keeps the bovines moving to stay active. It’s crucial, staff explained, because the animals get more food for extra warmth, so they need more exercise.

“The other thing that’s the real challenge is the calves, the baby calves,” Link said.

Link said the farm averages four new calves per day in its heated birthing center, which is another reason it has staff on site 24 hours a day.

“They (calves) like it a little bit warmer than the cows do, so we’ll put those jackets on and bed them with the straw,” Link showed 24 Hour News 8.

Keeping the cows’ hooves clean is also a focus, Link added.

Some of the farm’s machinery has been freezing up, unable to perform in icy wind chills, so what may usually be done by machines has turned into extra manual labor.

But Link said that cows are hearty enough to handle the weather without much of a problem.

“They usually love Michigan because of the cold, but once it gets down below zero, that’s when we start worrying a little bit about it. We want to give them a lot more energy in their diet,” Link said.

SwissLane staff hope the Arctic cold doesn’t linger too long. If it this weather lasts too long, they see the stress on the cows.

“Just like when it does when it’s too hot. Cows actually do worse during the heat than they do during the cold, but any kind of long stretch like this is going to start to take its toll on them,” Link said.

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