About this time every year, I begin to get surprised looks from people when I talk about all the activities happening on my family’s farm near Dodge, Neb. Together with my husband, we feed cattle and raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa. While the crops may not require a great deal of attention in the winter months, animal care on our farm is a top priority 365 days a year.
One of my many responsibilities includes walking through the cattle every morning, no matter the weather conditions, to make sure each animal is healthy. If an animal is sick and needs to be treated with antibiotics, we always adhere to label use under the supervision of our veterinarian. We also adhere to strict withdrawal times, or a set number of days that must pass between the last antibiotic treatment and the animal entering the food supply. And even though cattle have hair coats designed to handle living outdoors, in the cold winter months, we take extra care to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.
We provide extra bedding and windbreaks to help block the extreme cold. And in addition to shoveling our driveway during a snowstorm, we must remove or pile snow in the pens so that the cattle have dry places to lie down. We also must make sure that even during a snowstorm, the cattle are fed at their normal times with continuous access to water.
So, even though the winter weather might make you want to stay bundled up inside, know that farmers are braving the elements to make sure the animals are well cared for – because healthy animals equal healthy food for our families.
– Joan Ruskamp
Joan Ruskamp is a native of Grand Island, Nebraska and a 1980 graduate of Nebraska School of Technical Agriculture at Curtis in Veterinary Technology. In 1981, she married Steve and moved to the farm his dad was born and raised on west of Dodge, Neb. Farming was hard in the ‘80’s, but they stayed on the farm by feeding hogs until they could feed cattle and eventually custom fed cattle until 2009. Their family now runs a cattle herd with 4,000 head capacity! Joan’s role on the farm has evolved/adapted as they have five children ages 17-28, but she’s always stayed involved on the family farm with book work, doctoring, processing and numerous other little jobs with the cattle. Joan is a volunteer for CommonGround Nebraska, a national movement of farm women who want to share information about farming and the food farmers grow.