Tending to cattle, particularly when winter weather intrudes, demands daily attention even when its 25 head on 80 acres, as is Greg Kaufmans experience these days.
Its a mess out there, Kaufman said, the result of a wet fall, then cold and now recent snows.
If you take care of them and feed them theyll do OK, but theres more to it than plopping a bale of hay in a feeder.
Snow and cold alone arent too bad if its dry, Kaufman said, but the added dampness to a cows hair and skin has the same effect as it does on humans with the risk of colds and even pneumonia.
If a disease is not noticed quickly, it can be fatal.
Keeping cattle dry is essential, Kaufman said, but unlike most animals, barns are not ideal.
Dad (Courtney Kaufman) always told me it wasnt good to keep cattle bunched up in a barn, because of all the dust particles, which inhaled can lead to pulmonary and other health problems.
Instead, Kaufman uses windbreaks to protect his stock from the biting cold of northerly winds.
As well as providing his cattle with ample and nutritious feed, including grain, each evening, Greg has well water for them to drink. Fresh water is better, he submitted, than having cattle drink the 20 or more gallons needed each day from a pond.
In cold weather a pond can also be a trap when mud and ice accumulate. Cows can get bogged down in mud or fall through the ice. Even if a farmer is at hand, extricating a 1,200-pound cow is a daunting task.
A cows feet also are a focal point for good husbandry. Prolonged wet weather can result in foot rot, which may be intensified in pastures.
Old fescue can have a toxin that infects feet in wet weather, Kaufman said.
In more recent years, Kaufman has targeted calving to fall, starting as early as September, to avoid iffy weather in January and February.
I also got in the habit of feeding in the evening when I worked at Gates (28 years) and Ive read that evening feeding leads to more births during daylight hours, certainly beating middle-of-the-night ordeals.
Kaufman retired from Gates three years ago.
Kaufman grew up in Humboldt, a preference of his mothers to a farmstead, but was a farm kid from the time I was old enough to get in and out of a truck.
He and wife Deb lived a couple of miles northwest of Humboldt until 2007s flood put them in a FEMA trailer. After that, they moved to town.
The farmhouse, where my grandparents lived, was under 20 feet of water in 1951 (Allen Countys greatest flood) and when I remodeled it in 1976 I found dried mud in the walls.
At one time he farmed 600 acres, as well as having cattle, then slowly reduced his commitment.
At 63, sometimes I think it may be time to cut back with the cattle.
Dont bet on it.