Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cold Weather, Warm Hearts

Unusual winter weather has really set in this week across most of the country and has brought uncharacteristically low temperatures with it. In Ohio this week we have had wind chills dipping as low as -37 in parts of the state. For many people that means work and school are canceled and the weatherman suggests to stay indoors and stay warm.

On the pig farm at Standing Oaks Enterprises, we spend a week in advance preparing for cold weather and uncharacteristic problems because that is what it takes to be a responsible farmer. While the weather stays cold or changes drastically, our hearts stay warm as we pour our hearts into our work.

So what does a winter checklist look like on a pig farm? Well to begin we have to test run all furnaces (if they aren't already on) to make sure they are running properly. We have to adjust temperature settings in the barns because all of our barns run on automatic thermostats. That means we also have to check the amount of moisture in the barn. If their is to much cold air getting into the barn, the warm air creates moisture and that could lead to the piglets getting sick (pneumonia).

All the temp and air control go through monitors like these
Once we know that we have the temp and air controls set correct we have to check them several times a day to insure that the pigs are doing alright as the temperature fluctuates outside the barn. Lucky for us, many times we can use our video monitoring system inside the pig barns to detect moisture inside the barn.

Often times, because our barns are in rural areas, we risk losing power to our barns. So we have to have backup generators on all our barns (plus we have to have them for insurance purposes). It's important to check the oil level and fuel levels on all generators. Once we had to run our farm on generators for almost a week.

It's also important to check your feed supplies and heat source (propane) supplies before a big storm as well. Weather could make it very difficult to get the resources needed to the farm from suppliers if the roads are bad or if they lose power. Again, you have to account for the rural location and how conditions change drastically outside the city.

Dad running the plow
Once these things are all taken care of, we have to prep our snowplow and have salt on hand for trucks that may arrive. Semis are very hard to move on ice, especially in close spaces around barns.

After all of that is done, we just have to bundle up several times a day to go out to the farm and check on the pigs in person. While we can do several observations from a distance, you can never replace the in person check of barns, livestock and grounds.

My little brother wanted to go out with dad
No matter what the conditions are, farmers don't take a snow day. We care for our livestock as it is part of our family. In many ways, it is. Growing up, I remember my father spending several nights away from home because he would stay at the farm just in case he wasn't able to get there in the mornings. Farmers often have to choose between staying warm indoors and risking their health to go out and check on the animals they care for. Farming is an integral art of our family, and that means we all have to help to make sure that our family is taken care of. Even if it means losing sleep, getting sick, or spending time away from the ones we love in order to care for our livelihood.

So while you enjoy a warm meal this winter, think about the sacrifice and preparation that farmers have given to make insure that we have the safest food supply in he world, no matter what the weather. While it is cold outside, it warms our hearts to be devoted to such a task as providing safe, sustainable food for the world.