For most of us here in Iowa, the latest cold spell has turned into hunkering down time. If we must go outside in the below-zero weather, we bundle up and make it snappy, trying to get back inside before the cold air starts to bite at our toes, fingers and noses.

But that’s not an option for Iowa livestock farmers. They’ve got to head out into the cold, and stay out there, to make sure their cattle, hogs, sheep and other animals have feed, water and shelter from the biting winds.

Chores in the bitterly-cold weather are usually a lot harder. Engines don’t start. Equipment breaks down. Water lines freeze. Everything is just a lot harder to do.

Just ask Dan Golightly of rural Dallas County. On Jan. 6, with the mercury dipping into the double digits below zero, he spent part of the morning hauling hay bales by hand to feed his cattle after his tractor would not start. Then he went to work to thaw a frozen waterline to a stock tank. First he used a torch, but later switched to a hair dryer because he needed to protect the rubber hoses in the water pump.
“It’s not like I can just opt to go inside and lounge on the couch,” said Golightly. “The animals have to be cared for.”

For Golightly, 100 head of cattle require more care and fuel than usual to survive the sub-zero temperatures.

It’s hard work in the frigid weather, but caring for animals in the cold, heat and all of the different weather conditions we encounter here in Iowa has always been job number one for livestock farmers. And it still is today.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is editor of the Farm Bureau Spokesman.
Photos by Gary Fandel.