By Brandi Buzzard Frobose on December 20, 2022
Winter Essentials on the Ranch
Brr, it's cold out here. There must be some ranchers in the atmosphere.
We tried to outrun it, but sadly winter has arrived full force this week as temperatures are projected to be far below freezing. Although the cold weather does have some positive attributes – at least all the flying insects are dead – it adds extra time and effort to the day-to-day functions on the ranch.
Here are some winter essentials on our ranch that make things a little bit more bearable and comfortable during our chore regimen with cattle and horses.
Cold weather is hard on animals, people and even equipment. When it’s below zero trucks, tractors and ATVs can be slow to start (or not start at all). We have a battery charger/jumper at our home ranch and in our feed truck to make sure we can get the cattle fed and aren’t hamstrung by an equipment malfunction.
Many of our cattle pens have automatic waterers that we can prevent from freezing with a tank heater or a drip to keep water moving. However, icing is inevitable when it comes to ponds and other natural water sources. An axe is a must for chopping a large hole in the ice so cattle have constant access to fresh, clean water.
Water tank heater
Fresh, clean water is obviously a necessity in summer when it’s hot, but even in the winter, livestock need plenty of water to keep their body functioning properly. At our home ranch we have heaters in all the water tanks to keep water flowing and accessible. The heaters are safe for the livestock and don’t heat the water above about 40°F.
When it comes to staying warm during work on the ranch, layers are a rancher’s best friend. On the brutally cold days/nights, you can find me bundled up like the Michelin man with leggings, snow pants, base layer shirt, sweatshirt, vest, heavy coat and my favorite heated socks. If I’m warm, being outside for extended periods of time is really no problem!
Diesel fuel supplement
Our tractor and one of our trucks run on diesel and when the temperature drops, diesel fuel runs the high chance of “gelling up” where the diesel freezes and can’t move through the fuel line. Using a fuel tank supplement helps make sure our equipment is operating when we need it the most.
These are just a few things that help us keep our cattle and horses cared for and comfortable during the brutal cold but it’s not an all-encompassing list. A gate-getter, silage wagon and heated shop are all “nice to have” things during the winter as well. Furthermore, farms and ranches that calve their cows in the winter/early spring may have additional must-haves such as a calf heater and some warm, dry calving pens.
Hopefully, we can get back to milder temperatures in the coming weeks, but until then, we’ll turn the tractor heater on high and keep hay in front of all the animals to keep them happy!