A lot of people ask us about our animals in the winter. So we dusted off this article from a few years back and are sharing it here. It's originally from a few years ago but it seems that we keep getting weeks of below zero and keep having to republish it. Oh well, spring can't be that far behind now!
A lot of people come visit our farm in the spring and summer. Lush green grass. Open fields. Animals peacefully grazing away the day. But of course this is Minnesota and we don't have green grass year round. Some of you have probably wondered what it is like for animals on the farm in the winter.
We are always amazed that even in this weather, the animals love going out to enjoy the sun. On our home farm, the pigs now have access to the entire pasture and find warm places in the sun. And then, after spending time outside, they come back into the nice warm blanket of straw bedding that we have for them in the barn.
Hay. Lots and lots of hay... At least that's what people think... But that's not all.
While we do spend a lot of our time in the summer and autumn getting ready for winter and have hay at the ready for them to eat if they need it, and also stockpile up some grass so they can graze that as well. Of course pigs and chickens also have access to free choice non-genetically modified grains as well.
They love simply going outside to forage around (yes, even in the snow) and find all sorts of tasty grasses and other things left in our fields.
If you've lived with dogs or cats, you might have noticed this already but as winter approaches, many animals grow warmer, thicker coats. It's no different with our farm animals. The pigs and cows have thicker coats throughout the winter, and those heritage breeds put on a bit of extra warm fat too!
We make sure they have plenty of food and water throughout these shorter days and a nice warm place to go any time they get cold.
It isn't just the big animals with the big coats that keep warm. Animals of all sizes are well suited to handle the cold. Our animals keep warm just like the birds and rabbits and turkeys you having living right around your neighborhood right now. (Amazing to think about, isn't it?) But we also provide a nice cozy barn AND a spot with lots and lots of straw for the animals to bed down and keep toasty.
The straw in the barn does an amazing job of insulating and keeping the animals warm. Of course, every once in a while, a lucky lamb or two might just find it's way into the house for a little bit, with the help of some kids, of course.
Yes, we have some cold nights here in Minnesota. It's important for our animals to have someplace warm to be when it gets that cold. (Sunday, I'm looking at you!)
But even those of you who are dreading the next few months of winter have to admit that a lot of us do pretty well in the cold. We cross-country ski. And fish. And do all sorts of things outside that people in other places would think crazy because it is "so cold". But just like with us, the key is having someplace warm to go afterwards.
Foraging hogs and our farm dog, Jax, December 2016
We get asked all the time about how our hens can be pasture raised in the winter.
As much as they love Minnesota winters, the animals under our care clearly can't have green growing grass with the ground covered in snow!
In the summer the animals are just like us and prefer to be outside in the cooler morning and evening hours and seek the shade during the sunny hot part of the days. In the winter, they prefer to be outside during the warmer mid-day warm sun and shelter during the colder parts of the day.
We provide greens to our hens all winter, mostly in the form of organic alfalfa and they love going outside to peck and scratch in the snow!