Winter Weather Preparedness on the Farm

Wayne Dellinger, ANR Educator Union County

With the turn of the calendar year coming off a year with a record setting number of tropical storms, what should we expect for early 2021?  OSU Extension Climate Specialist Aaron Wilson and most others agree that Ohio will likely experience below normal temperatures and average to possibly above average snowfall depending on how scenarios evolve. 

How do we prepare the farm for such conditions?  Take advantage of daylight, when temperatures are warmer, and when weather is favorable to winterize equipment and buildings.  This is also a good time for routine maintenance so there is less probability of breakdowns needing repair when conditions are less than favorable. 

Keep an eye on the weather.  Being aware of not only the short-term forecast, but also the long-term forecast is as important in the winter as it is in the Spring when trying to get crops in the ground.  Before a heavy snow falls, it is beneficial to clearly mark where drives are and especially where any lagoons and ponds are located.  This will assist those less familiar with the layout of the farmstead to avoid dangerous situations.

Be prepared for the unexpected with livestock.  Do not wait until temperatures are below freezing to shop for a water tank heater.  You will most likely find an empty shelf.  Have water tank heaters ready as well as any heat lamps that may be necessary for farrowing, lambing, kidding, etc.  Have a contingency plan for power outages that will allow you to get water to livestock.  Depending on the forecast, you may want some extra supplies of feed and bedding material in case trips to town and deliveries may be delayed or not possible.

Take care of yourself!  Layer clothing so depending on the amount of physical labor you are performing you may remain comfortable.  Ensure your head and hands are always warm.  Even as in the summer, be mindful to stay hydrated and avoid over-exertion.  When using alternate power and heating sources, be mindful of carbon monoxide buildup and provide adequate ventilation.  At all times, let someone know where you will be working.

Being prepared increases safety, reduces stress, and facilitates smooth operation in less than ideal circumstances.

Wayne Dellinger, ANR Educator Union County, can be reached at 937-644-8117 ex. 3024 or This column is provided by the OSU Agricultural Safety and Health Team.