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You all remember the early winter months of 2016 in Alberta? Well, if you don’t live in Alberta let me sum it up for you. January through March is usually a foot or two of snow and temperatures in the minus 20 degree Celsius range. We do get the odd warm up here and there to give us a break from the cold though. 2016 started off so mild and continued to warm up with literally no precipitation at all. The temperatures at the end of February during the day were just below freezing but the nights did get cold. March had many a day with the temperatures over zero and we were wearing sweaters outside.

calf rescue 2016
March 2016 was wonderfully mild.

Now I know that January 2016 was forecast to be a mild last half of winter and that is not normal or a regular occurrence. The forecast for 2016/2017 winter in Alberta was to be colder and more snow than average. So that being the first winter for the girls outside full-time I needed to prepare a bit.

calf rescue 2016
Re roofing shelters on the farm.

In all honesty we did some repairs in 2015, like putting new roofs on three of the shelters. The Kitchen Magpie (Karlynn) was of course recruited to be my happy helper tarring and shingling them.

I also had the help of my dad to get all of the four automatic waterer’s up and running since they had been turned off for a few years. He showed me exactly how they work and how to replace parts. We carefully adjusted the heating elements in them to ensure they wouldn’t freeze the water or the pipes. All of them needed something from heater adjustments, gaskets, valves, or wiring fixed. But all are 100% operational now and that’s a relief because we will need all of them next summer to rotate pastures effectively.

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calf rescue 2016
1977 Chevrolet 3/4 ton farm truck

Meet Rusty, the wonderful 1977 Chevrolet 3/4 ton farm truck. The truck box bottom is wood (because it’s rusted through underneath) there is no A/C, and inside under the gas pedal its turning into a fred Flintstones car. But rusty is a great help for hauling bales and fence fixing supplies around because who cares if he gets a scratch? This truck is the ladder in the pasture to fix the shelter roofs and even temporarily held up the fence to keep the horses in. Yeah, every farm needs one of these.

calf rescue 2016
Rebuilt hay feeder

In part of preparing for winter they needed several places to eat hay. So I totally rebuilt this feeder and painted it red because that’s the color of extra paint we had. I also rebuilt the step up to the feeder with old fence boards. I am not much of a carpenter, but there isn’t much that I will not try or learn to do. I love using old lumber if I can and I’m sad to say my pile has dwindled.

calf resccue 2016
Getting hay for the cows first winter

The final preparations were to find someone nearby that had round hay bales of a suitable grass alfalfa mix. We totally lucked out and found someone with fields within 20 km and he could also deliver.  My dad and I drove out to the field to inspect the hay in the field and found that it would be perfect. These hay bales were at least 1300 lbs or larger, so they would last a bit longer. We decided to get only three round bales as we also had over 100 square bales in our barn from the previous summer’s baling of our own small pastures (Thanks to a wonderful neighbor). I also put out a powdered mineral lick for the cows to eat free choice in the covered shelter.

All of this for TWO cows!! Yes, they are healthy, happy and totally pet cows now. They made it through their first winter last year and now are as tough as nails, eating their hay bales way too fast this winter.

Make sure to check out my latest update from the farm!

Karami

 

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Welcome to Prairie Homesteading! I'm the resident writer of all things homesteading here on The Kitchen Magpie. I head up the care of all the animals out on the family farm in rural Alberta. Make sure to check out my Zoe's Best homemade dog treats section and have fun reading about all our homesteading adventures!

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