Long periods of cold and snow obviously make dairy farming a difficult occupation. This February and the forecasted early March have indeed been trying to most of us. We cannot get a break in the weather to catch up and reset our lives to some kind of normalcy. The kids miss too much school, parents are stressed about daycare, and I have not taught my Sunday school class in about a month. I really miss those kids.
    One of the silly things that happened on one of the coldest nights of the year was one of our 6,000-gallon bulk tanks could not cool the milk. That seems a bit like saying your oven will not heat when it is 101 degrees in the summertime. The thermostat inside the tank is actually located outside under the bulk headed tank. The thermostat was influenced more by the outside cold than the milk temperature inside the tank. A temporary wind break and a heat lamp quickly solved the problem.
    One early morning last week, I was out clearing snow off the roads for the employees, and I got a call that my feed mixing employee was in the ditch with his pickup about 4 miles north of me. I was just getting him out when the phone rang again, and the empty milk semi was in the ditch 10 miles to the south of that. The good news was all my neighbors got the county blacktop road cleared six hours before the first county plow came along.
    Halfway through writing this, the Midwest dairy news is picking up many stories of collapsed barn roofs and injured cows. That is truly a winter nightmare for any dairy farmer to endure. All dairy farmers are proud of those calves that are raised to be great cows, and we are proud of the barns we build to take care of those great cows. To lose so much so fast in an already tough business would be so hard.
    So far, we have not had that nightmare, but we have lost some sleep over our sand lane and manure flume. Our basic manure system consists of scraping pens with a skidloader into a manure flume, which turns 90 degrees and dumps into a sand lane. The sand settles out in the sand lane to be scooped up and recycled as bedding once it dries out. From the sand lane, the manure laden water continues on to lagoon No. 1. In theory, the manure settles out in lagoons No. 1 and No. 2, with gray water left by the time it gets to lagoon No. 3. The floating pump in lagoon No. 3 pumps the gray water back into the flume continuously. The problem during prolonged cold spells like this is the water gets so cold, almost slushy, that it does not carry sand or manure effectively. We have had to manually clean the sand out of the flume twice already and probably will need to do it once more.
    The manure flume generally works very well, and because Joe did most of the design on it, I do not worry about it much. I help with it and do what I am told. I let Joe lose sleep over it. Corey probably worries if the old feed truck will make it another year, and Bry hopes all the employees make it to work during all the blizzards. My nightmares usually go way back to the olden days of drinking cups running over all night in the tiestall barn. The worst thing back in those days was pick axing frozen silage off the silo walls so the unloaders would work correctly.
    It is a good thing most nightmares are not real, or if they are that we adopt the attitude of my good friend Dave Schwartz. Dave’s freestall barn collapsed last week, and he lost 16 of his 100 cows. I called him to see how he was doing, and he said he moved his remaining cows into a bedded shed, and carpenters were already there getting prepared to rebuild. He said he was still having fun, and if it was not fun, he would pretend he was having fun.
    Vander Kooi operates a 1,800-cow, 4,500 acre farm with his son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Rita, near Worthington, Minn. Send him feedback at davevkooi@icloud.com. Follow him on Instagram, @davevanderkooi.