Farmers face frigid temps despite warnings

Ben Mikesell
Goshen News, Ind.

BRISTOL, Ind. — During the recent polar vortex, the National Weather Service recommended limiting exposure in sub-zero temperatures to less than 10 minutes.

Livestock farmers, including Ryan Baker in Bristol, Ind., can’t help but scoff at that.

“Chores take anywhere from one and a half to two hours,” he said.

Baker, who runs a livestock farm near the Indiana-Michigan state line, is responsible for keeping his cows as warm as possible in the frigid weather. Chores include feeding the cows, checking on calves every hour and keeping ice from accumulating on the automatic waterers.

“We do what we can,” Baker said. “We bust our butts to keep our stock warm, along with almost every other farmer out there.”

Early on Jan. 31, one of his cows in the maternity ward went into labor, which meant Baker needed to stay outside and be ready for the birth. He took turns keeping an eye on the cow with his father Larry. Once it was born, the calf was inside to warm up in a jacket before being reunited with its mother later in the afternoon.

“With these temperatures, it doesn’t take long for a calf to go into a hypothermic state,” Baker said. “When it’s this cold out the calves will be wearing calf jackets for a couple of days until they can regulate their body temperature a little better.”

In times of extreme sub-zero temperatures, farmers don’t get the luxury of staying bundled up indoors.

“The animals take precedent over our own care and health,” Baker said. “We don’t have a choice. ... This is our livelihood.”