While it is important for productivity to keep livestock comfortable during the hot summer months, the significance of adequate ventilation during winter can sometimes be overlooked.
“It is important for farmers to remember that livestock still need air movement in the winter, so they should not be in a completely sealed building,” Wilmes said.
On dairy farms, several components should be considered to provide proper ventilation in a barn. First, there has to be adequate inlets that allow the air in. Second, there needs to be something in place that pulls the air across the animals, such as a barn fan and lastly, an exhaust to allow the air to move out.
“The fresh air removes moisture, ammonia and airborne pathogens,” Wilmes said.
One way for producers to check whether or not their barn has adequate ventilation is to spend some time in the facility and pay attention to what it smells like, observe how comfortable the livestock seem to be and to feel for drafts.
For livestock housed in a naturally ventilated barn, Wilmes recommends producers examine the curtains for tears, holes or other loose parts that would allow an uncontrolled airflow.
When it comes to housing livestock in mechanically vented barns, Wilmes suggests to check all fans and inlets to ensure that the inlets are “well distributed, clear and adjusted as needed,” she said.
In addition, all cold weather fans should be checked to make sure that they operate well and are well lubricated.
One way to prevent drafts is to seal off the hot weather fans that won’t run, so cold air is not let in.
“Any fans with shutters should be checked to make sure that the shutters close when the fans do not run,” she said.
When getting the farm into a winter-ready shape, it is also important to check all the areas where people will be.
Wilmes suggests making sure that all doors to the barn, milking parlor and other areas close firmly to prevent leaking in cold air. It’s also important to make sure that the air supply stays fresh, the chimney clear and that fuel lines are not damaged in areas where propane or natural gas heaters are used.
Another area the colder weather affects is the producers’ crop. Because of the rainy weather during fall, many producers were unable to get into the fields to harvest the crops. It was too muddy and machinery became stuck.
Dan Martens, extension educator with a focus on agricultural production, said colder weather can work to the producers’ benefit.
Not only does frozen soil enable farmers to get out into the fields. But when the crop freezes, the cold prevents it from spoiling, Martens said.
But when some crops, such as soybeans, get too wet, farmers often have a hard time finding a buyer for the crop.
“The farmers either have to find people to work with them to dry the beans or to get them to freeze,” Martens said.
Another challenge many farmers faced was that the rainy weather and muddy fields prevented them from fertilizing the fields.
“It’s hard to do it when it’s really muddy, but then when the ground is frozen, it’s hard to get the manure worked into the soil,” he said.
The manure is spread on the fields to give nutrients to the soil. The goal is to make use of those nutrients for the next year’s crop, Martens said.