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Wintertime for Farmers

What happens on the farm during the winter?


For most farmers, the busiest times of the year are during the spring and fall. The spring marks the beginning of their growing season and crop farmers prepare for seeding. When the crops are fully grown, usually in the fall, farmers head straight into the harvest season!


What do farmers get up to once the harvest season ends and that first snowfall hits? While it may seem like it’s a time for some good old rest and relaxation, they still have quite a lot of work to do to prepare for the winter months and next growing season.


Preparing for the wintertime


Once fall comes to an end, producers first need to prepare their farm and livestock for the cold weather. Grain farmers will prepare their land so that it’s ready for next seeding season—some tasks include weed management or planting winter cover crops. They also inspect and provide maintenance for their farming equipment. Harvesters, combines, and seeders are vital to a farm’s operation—so once the busy season is over, it’s the perfect time to double check the equipment is in good shape! Then, farmers ensure that the equipment is properly stored for the harsh weather ahead.[1]


For livestock producers, winter preparation looks a little bit different. They need to make sure there’s enough resources and shelter to keep their animals safe and healthy. While livestock are adapted to cold weather, they do need a bit of extra care—and a couple extra servings of feed! In order for animals to maintain their body temperature, they need to burn more calories —so animals need more feed than they do in the spring and summer. For those severe cold weather days, it’s important for animals to have sufficient shelter, such as trees, hedges, fences, wind breaks, or barns. Cattle producers will also inspect these barriers and structures, ensuring that there are no gaps in fencing or ventilation leaks in barns. Ranchers will also provide extra bedding for their animals to keep them nice and cozy.[2]


Lots and lots of planning


After the farm has been properly winterized, farmers start to plan for next year’s growing season. Just like any business, farms have many administrative and management tasks they must tend to. But for farmers, this can get tricky, as they need to consider many factors in their production chain, including biological, environmental, and economic. Most of these factors are unpredictable and can change on the fly. They also all affect one another.


The biological component of planning includes knowing which crop to plant in the coming season and the best crop management practices needed for a good yield. Farmers also have to consider if the crop will work with their current rotation, so the soil does not become depleted of nutrients. Environmental factors, like predicted weather conditions, can also affect crop yield, and in turn, the economics of the farm. Seed and fertilizer are also purchased during the winter months, as farmers determine how much of these inputs are necessary for the next year’s growing season. Ultimately, farmers calculate all risks and factors when planning the management of their operations.


Producers also use the winter months to network and work on professional development. They participate in conferences and trade shows—some even sit on agriculture board committees. These professional development opportunities allow them to stay up-to-date on the latest management practices and agtech.[3]


For livestock producers, these business and networking tasks are on top of caring for their animals daily—they still need to feed their herd, check on their animals’ health, and ensure they have everything they need for the winter season.


Even in the winter, for both farmers and livestock producers, there’s still plenty of things to do on the farm!





Sources

[1] Global Farmer Network—So, what do Canadian farmers do in the winter? https://globalfarmernetwork.org/2017/12/canadian-farmers-winter/ [2] Small Farm Canada—Winter Care for Livestock https://www.smallfarmcanada.ca/features/winter-care-for-livestock/ [3] Good in eery Grain—Facts for Teachers: Winter and Farming https://goodineverygrain.ca/2021/12/06/facts-for-teachers-winter-and-farming/

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