Our part of the world has been dealing with some serious heat recently, which, as animal farmers, is worrisome. All of our animals have free access to shade all day, every day. Most of the time, they actually take advantage of that shade – the cows and horses will be in the barn until mid-afternoon, the chickens stay in their coop or hunker down under a piece of equipment, the sheep and goats go in their hoop hut or under a tree.
With the heat index in the 90s or over 100 degrees F (Friday was 110F according to my weather app, and it’s projected to be around 107F today), it’s even more important for us to keep an eye on all of our critters, so I will make the rounds every few hours to make sure no one is in distress and that all the water buckets are filled up.
The cows and horses are the easiest, since they have access to fresh running water. For everyone else, it’s a matter of moving a hose around to fill up buckets or waterers. We do this in stages – water to the sheep and goats, take a break; water to the egg chickens and pigs, take a break, etc, etc. We can’t take care of them unless we’re also making sure to be hydrated and alert.
As far as farm work goes, it gets done before 9 or 10am, or after 7pm. Being prone to overheat anyway, I’m not interested in being taken to the emergency room due to heat exhaustion. The rest of the time, I do like the animals – stay in a cool place and keep hydrated.
Thankfully, this type of weather doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it takes an extra level of watchfulness of the animals and of us.
A little hard to see in this picture – but it rained today! After the stinkin’ hot week we had, it was a welcome sight.
It’s always been interesting how the amount of rain varies in the same storm system. I was at Greenville’s farm market this morning, and we decided to close the market early due to the big red blob on the radar heading our way. We were still getting tents down and products packed away when the wind came up and the rain came down. It was a soaker. Then I’m driving back to the farm and it was raining a nice, gentle rain – good to water the garden. It was windy, to be sure, but the soaking thunderstorm all went north of us.
I’ve also seen it raining down by the river and not at the houses, and have watched the downpour come across the fields – both are pretty cool to see. The one I don’t really like is when I can see the whole rain shower moving north or south of us, and we get nothing!
We are blessed with a spring fed creek running through the cow and horse pastures on its way to the Stillwater River. The funny thing about water is it does what it wants, and its path changes over the course of time. We may have recently gained a watering hole – there was a pretty good-sized sinkhole on the farm (in the hay pasture) that is now filled with water. We’ll see if it stays that way due to an underground water source, or if it’s a “wet weather” pond. Either way, it’s a big hole in our hay pasture that we have to remember not to mow through.
One of the (many!) downsides to winter is having to carry buckets full of water to the animals. In the summer, we run garden hoses to where water is needed, but those tend to freeze – not good! We’ve considered putting in some kind of “winter proof” water conveyance, but some of them aren’t practical and some are too expensive. So for now, we lug water, 5 gallons at a time (that’s about 40 pounds).
How much water does it take for a fill up? 2 chicken waterers are 10 gallons. 1 goat watering bucket, 15 gallons. For the calf we are bottle feeding (it was a twin that was rejected by the momma cow), at least 10 gallons to cover the tank heater, 30 to fill the tank most of the way full. The cows and horses have a creek running through their pastures, and even if the creek ices over, it takes a lot of ice for them not to be able to break through it. If it does ice over, we get out there and break some holes for them.
Tonight I ended up carrying 2 buckets for the chickens, 2 for the calf, and 1 for the goats…grand total of 25 gallons of water. Times that by every 2-3 days, and that’s a lot of water to haul around per week.