Farm life usually calms down somewhat in wintertime after the busy harvest season, and so do we. It feels great to relax a little and catch up with the office and paperwork for a change instead of all the physical work outdoors.
The most important job for most farmers during the winter is feeding the animals. Keeping the barn and enclosures dry and clean is another winter task that has to be performed regularly. This can pose special challenges, especially in older farm buildings. Finnish farms traditionally have many old buildings in which animals are kept.
Tight conditions can cause tricky situations: feeding and distributing forage are mostly done with tractors that are relatively big compared to the space inside the barns. Both drying and feeding are fairly easy in newer barns in which the pens and general layout have been carefully designed with tractors in mind. Older barns are often much narrower, restricting access for large tractors and requiring a lot of experience and practice from the driver to get the job done safely and efficiently.
Many farmers have an ambiguous attitude towards winter. On the one hand, the arrival of winter often means less agricultural work and maybe even a small holiday. There is less outdoor and field work to do and even the chance to relax a little. On the other hand, the cold weather and snow pose their own challenges for everyday life on the farm: they are not always the most pleasant companions for farmers.
Outdoor enclosures are naturally at the mercy of the frost, and the risks of frozen water pipes and other important equipment are very high. Cold tractors and other machinery also require extra care when leaving for outdoor work on a dark frosty morning. If foresight and planning are important factors for a farmer during the summer season, they are doubly so in the winter season: tractor work must be timed for days when heavy snow and freezing conditions are not forecast.
Heavy snowfall, while pretty to look at, means a lot of snowploughing too for farmers. In fact, the beautiful snowy conditions and winter landscape present a wide range of tasks and challenges for farmers. As a result, they often view the winter landscape from a different perspective than the rest of us, who simply admire the stunningly beautiful scenery.
Of course, on a bright winter day, with temperatures just a little below zero and lots of snow, farmers too can enjoy the outdoors and even go skiing straight from their door. Valtra tractors are perfect for snow tasks, so you can even groom your own outdoor and cross-country ski trails at the same time!
Author, Riikka Ruunaniemi, is the spouse of a farmer who has followed the farm lifestyle and its work for more than 20 years. Over the years she has become interested in livestock handling and the use of shepherd dogs in the daily work of the farm. In addition to my own day jobs, she says, “I have been "one foot in the mud" always involved in everyday work, from calving in the field”.