Prepare Your Dairy for Winter

Readers’ tips on dairy in winter, beans, compost, seed storage, firewood, and more!

Plan ahead for cold, snowy weather by adding lighting and maybe even reducing your herd size.
Photo by Adobe Stock/Carla


I enjoy operating my small dairy year-round, though I have to admit spring and fall are my favorite times of year, because I’m not a fan of weather extremes. Here are some tips I’ve learned while managing my small herd during Vermont’s long winters.

Good lighting. In winter, it’s dark when I wake up, and dark when I do my evening chores. The floodlight outside my barn has a motion detector, so it lights up the barnyard when the cows or I go outside in the dark. I recommend installing lighting inside your sheds and outbuildings where you work in winter, but don’t feel the need to do everything at once. Every fall, I make one or two minor improvements to my dairy to prepare for the upcoming season.

Snow prep. Also in fall, I make sure the areas where I’ll be pushing snow are open and clear of machinery and other obstacles, and I stack the firewood. I take down temporary fencing next to the road and driveways. Plowing snow is unproductive, so I make sure to eliminate any obstacles or further complications that could damage my tractor and other equipment.

Downsizing the herd. The thought of coming winter can be daunting, especially if you operate your small dairy alone. Back when my wife, kids, and I milked 70 Jersey cows, chore time was a family affair. But I decided to lighten my load when it was just me, trudging up to the barn in the snow and cold every morning and night. Recently, I sold two of my four cows, keeping one bred heifer and a milking cow. That essentially cut my chore time in half, and reduced the hay and grain to feed out during winter by 50 percent.

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