High Grove Farm Journal – January 2022
Jan 31, 2022 (Westby, WI)
By Jessica Rogers
Welcome to another month in the life of a Westby Cooperative Creamery farmer. I am Jessica Rogers and every month my family and I give you a glimpse into our lives as dairy farmers on our farm near Soldiers Grove, Wis.
It has been a nice winter. Not too much snow to start and it’s only gotten really cold in January. An arctic blast came through Jan. 2 and with the wind-chill, it felt like 20 degrees below zero when we started our morning chores. No matter what the thermometer says, dairy farms run on strict milking schedules and chores must be done on time – even if all you want to do is stay in the warmth of the house. Dairy cows do not like their daily routine upset! If you mess with their rigid schedule, they will let you know with switching tails at your face while you milk them and moos that will rattle the windows if their feed is late.
With very cold weather, it’s easy to spend several extra hours on both morning and evening chores, and that’s if things go well. If something breaks from the cold, which it usually does, it takes much longer. When that first cold weather hit, our family tackled the challenges head on and dealt with the multitude of issues like champs! But now toward the end of the month – and after several weeks in a row of frigid temperatures – we are less and less enthusiastic once a problem arises. We look forward to the springtime more as each day passes.
Fixing frozen outside heated waterers and equipment that won’t start falls on my husband Drew. He is a diesel mechanic and these things come easily for him. I am always amazed at how quickly he solves problems. We are blessed by his gift for fixing things!
There have been a few flat tires to deal with and the compressor on the outside of the milk house (whose job it is to cool the milk in the bulk tank) has not wanted to start a few mornings. Then the feed truck had an airline freeze up in our driveway, which Drew of course helped with. Any broken window or door that doesn’t seal properly is an opportunity for the cows’ water cups to freeze in the milking barn, so those had to be fixed as well. Chopping ice out of water troughs and providing extra feed and warmth to all the animals takes a lot of extra time each day.
For the chickens, we bring the laying hens warm water each morning and collect eggs twice a day to make sure we get them all collected before they freeze.
One morning we had just finished our chores when all of a sudden, we had no water anywhere. The brand new well pump and pressure tank all fried, and our poor cows went without water the whole day while the well installers dropped another new pump in.
As you can see, it’s been quite a busy month! With the start of each new year on a dairy farm comes a review of the previous year. As tax season quickly approaches, all our expenses need to be categorized and everything needs to be made ready for tax appointments. We also had the creamery’s annual meeting to go to where we enjoyed a wonderful meal and some great conversation with other Westby farmers.
The wood stove in our basement has been heating the house non-stop to fight the cold. And I feel like I haven’t stopped baking and cooking the family hearty meals to help keep them going for the next chore time, which is always just a few hours away.
The brunt of the work on our farm falls on Drew. Our oldest son, Carter, is a tremendous help on the farm as well, and our younger son, Caleb, has been keeping the laying hens happy this winter. Even through the cold they haven’t stopped laying eggs for our breakfasts and my baking. Laney, our four-year-old, keeps the dogs fed and the cats company in the barn.
Winter is truly a test for a family on a dairy farm, but no matter the struggles there are wonderful moments of family togetherness. It makes it easy for me to see why there are so many with fond, warm childhood memories made on the farm!
-Jessica Rogers is a Westby Creamery farmer-owner who is sharing glimpses of farm life with us.