SOUTH HAVEN, Minn. – March started out with very cold temperatures.
Nearby St. Cloud broke records on March 1 (record cold maximum temperature of 0 degrees), March 2 (record cold maximum temperature of 3 degrees), and March 3 (record cold minimum temperature of 19 degrees below zero), before conditions began to moderate, according to preliminary data from the St. Cloud climatology report.
Beginning on March 4, Stearns County experienced temperatures that rose through the teens, 20s, 30s and 40s. On March 10, Minnesota’s number one dairy county experienced 48 degrees.
“We have a lot of thawing in the free stall barn around the waterers,” said Joe Johnson, giving his report on March 11. “It’s starting to get sloppy though, with over half of the snow melted in a couple days.
“Other than that – it’s perfect weather for the cows. Ideal weather for milking is in the 40-50 degree range.”
Joe figured that about 20 percent of the farmland no longer had snow covering it. Stearns County’s snow depth as of March 6 was 12-24 inches.
When temperatures move rapidly, resulting in misty, foggy or hazy conditions, cattle do face the threat of respiratory issues.
“We’ve gone through a few bottles of medicine with the cows that were down from the weather bouncing around,” he said. “We’ve had a little more coughing in the calves the last couple of weeks with the freezing and melting during the night – and it drips in the calves’ feeding area.
“It’s not terrible, but a little more than normal. We get that every year, but I’m sure this year is a little more than usual.”
The hoof trimmer arrived at H & JJ Johnson Dairy farm on March 11, and spent a full day trimming the hooves of 60 cows.
“Normally he trims 40-45 cows, but a couple weeks ago we were going to trim and it was a 20 below day, so we got pushed back,” he said. “We had a bigger group to do today.”
The hoof trimmer has a chute the cow walks in, and the cow is lifted up so her hooves can be trimmed. The Johnsons had a palpation rail they adapted to go with the chute to direct the cows to the chute.
In late February and early March, just five or six cows freshened.
“We have two weeks where no cows are due, and then we have three or four older cows and then a batch of 14 heifers to calf at the beginning of April,” said Joe.
Pregnancy checks were conducted in late February and showed good results.
Dairy farmers spread manure across their farmland, and the Johnsons had custom manure applicators out to the farm to remove a few loads from their Slurrystore.
“We just went through a lot more water this year, as I was down in the barn keeping things thawed out, so the slurry filled up faster than normal,” he said.
With the warmer temperatures, Joe and his family took a well-deserved mini-vacation to Arizona to see his parents, Howard and JoAnn Johnson.
“For living out in the barn for a couple of months, the farm paid for me and my family to go down to my parents for four days,” he said.
Joe’s brother, Jamie Johnson and family were also scheduled for a vacation south.
Howard and Joanne planned to return home from Arizona by March 17 to get ready for spring fieldwork, but on their way home, they planned to visit Joe and Jamie’s sister, Dr. Shannon (Johnson) Flegle, DVM and her husband, Jeff Flegle in St. Louis.
Joe was anxious for his dad to get back home. The planting season was rapidly approaching and there was work to get done.
“Probably in the next few weeks we’ll go over the barn and fix up all of the gates and the mats in the stalls, following the wear and tear through the winter,” Joe said. “A lot of the gates where bedding is put in get bumped because of the ice. We have gates to fix – but we’ll plan to do that once we know the freezing is done.
“There will be some touchups in the barn before we get into planting.”