Freezing in the New Year…

Central Nebraska is ringing in the New Year with frigid temperatures.  Yesterday, the thermometer reported -18 degrees when I read bunks at just after 6:00am.  This time of year, I tend to reflect back to my high school days — sitting in a warm Florida classroom and reading Jack London’s To Build a Fire.  Since learning how to winter on our farm in Nebraska, the words of the story take on a much fuller meaning…


When it turns this cold, we rely on technology — common sense — instinct — and basic care standards to protect both ourselves and our animals.  In times of harsh winter weather, survival becomes intrinsically tied to the above things, as depicted eloquently by London’s story.

  • Any vital equipment (feed trucks, tractors, pay loaders) is parked inside the heated shop or next to a building where we can plug in an engine heater to better ensure its likelihood of working when it is needed.
  • Special fuel is used to run the equipment that makes it less likely to “gel up” and quit working.
  • Crew priorities focus on the basics: feeding the cattle a special storm ration during both daily feedings that helps them to generate heat from within, frequently checking all water tanks to make sure that a constant supply of water is not disrupted by a tank freezing over, checking cattle health, and preparation for the next day to ensure that morning feed delivery (breakfast) occurs on schedule.
  • Any extra time is spent working on inside paperwork/chores.

Crew members working outdoors are fully covered with multiple layers of clothing, and take frequent breaks either in the shop or in a warm pick up truck to protect against frost bite.  My guys all tend to grow beards for the winter, I get out my ski mask and do my best bank robber impersonation.

IPhone fall 2011 079

London’s protagonist perishes in To Build A Fire due to his lack of common sense and employment of poor survival skills.  Conversely, his dog companion depends on instinct and survives.

I think that it is fair to say that good farmers use a combination of modern technology and instinct to ensure survival and productivity during times of winter challenge.  After all, it is our job to care for the animal, not be bested by him!



Filed under CAFO, Farming, General

8 responses to “Freezing in the New Year…

  1. Your animals are in good hands but still, I wish you all good luck, sunshine and warmer temperatures!

  2. theranchwifechronicles

    Good Luck as you and your crew deal with arctic type weather. I was glad to see mild temps while in NE and Iowa. Dad was excited that the sun came out over Christmas.

    Yesterday was simply raw, windy, blowing snow and a high in the low-mid teens. Today is nice with an afternoon temp of 31*. It’s breezy, but not bad out. Sounds like the same for Friday and than back to frigid cold.

    Be safe!

    • Yes, we are back to being cold after a couple of nicer days. We had terrible wind and blowing snow last night. I actually got my vehicle stuck at the feed yard reading bunks in the dark early this morning — I was so busy entering my bunk calls that I didn’t see the snow drift until I was in it! My cowboy assured me that it was a “Florida girl” mistake 🙂

      Hope that you all are well.


  3. Frigid here in SE Wyo, too, but temps are looking up. Stay warm!

    • Thank you! Yes, we likely share the same weather — you just get it about a day before we do 🙂

      I am looking forward to the spring!

  4. cara

    ahhh yes, “To Build a Fire” is certainly one of those stories that always stays with ya…..

    • Glad to hear that it resonates with you as well. The story always seems applicable this time of year—

      Happy New Year to you and your family!

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