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Cold Weather Brings Added Costs, Stress For Wisconsin Farmers

Ag Experts Say Low Prices Making Winter Issues More Challenging

Cow in the winter
Matt Slocum/AP Photo

More than a week of frigid temperatures have Wisconsin farmers dealing with extra costs and added stress, says a dairy farmer.

“Probably the biggest challenge is crawling out of bed in the morning and going outside,” said Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union and a dairy farmer near Westby. “But the bigger issues are, with livestock, making sure that they have water. If heaters break on your water, then there’s that issue of them freezing up pretty fast.”

Von Ruden said frozen machinery on silos can also making feeding animals more difficult, and young livestock are often susceptible to frostbite. Farmers also use more fuel and have to feed livestock more in cold weather.

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The extra work also means added wear on farmers themselves.

“It’s hard enough working when it’s 40 degrees out. But when you get down to 5, 10 below and working outside in cold weather like this, the human body just does not do well in it,” Von Ruden said.

He said most Wisconsin farmers are used to dealing with below-freezing temperatures every winter.

But Trisha Wagner, a University of Wisconsin-Extension agent in Jackson County, said this winter feels different for many dairy farmers.

“We are used to having cold spells in Wisconsin winters, and dairy farmers are used to dealing with that. However, the economic challenges are kind of making this type of weather a little more challenging to keep going every day.” Wagner said.

Wagner said several years of low milk prices have made the added costs and stress more difficult to bear, especially as predictions for 2018 prices show little improvement.