Down on the farm, cows can delight in winter wonderland

Jerry Graberek's 55 milkers had a late breakfast Tuesday, when their appetites for the playing in the snow took over their hunger for hay.

"I finally got them fed around noon, about three hours late," said Graberek, owner of Preston Farm.

After trudging through knee-deep snow to reach his barn in the morning, he found his cows had wandered into an outdoor area and found their way out of the fence.

"They were running around," he said. "They think of the snow as a plaything. They were like kids at recess."

His son came and helped him round up the cows back into the barn. Then they had to shovel out their feeding stalls, which had filled with drifting snow. At least, he said, the Guida's milk truck wasn't due to come for a pickup until today, giving him more time to dig out, and he didn't have to fire up his generator to use the milking machines.

"We didn't lose power, thank God," he said.

But the digging out never seemed to end Tuesday. After clearing the path to the barn and plowing out the driveway where the Guida's truck would be pulling in today, Graberek was shoveling out drifts of snow that had found their way into the barn.

"And now I'm looking at 4-foot drifts on the roof of my milking parlor that I'm going to have to shovel off," he said.

Tuesday's blizzard didn't stop the beef and dairy cows at Tiffany Farms on Sterling City Road in Lyme.

Jack Tiffany, who owns the farm with his wife, Susan Tiffany, said the cows kept to their typical early-morning milking and feeding schedule - though it took a few minutes longer than usual - and still got outside for their daily exercise.

Tiffany said cows typically don't mind the cold, though they don't care for the wind. Beef cows, in particular, sport a heavy coat of hair and carry more body fat, so they can withstand the cold outdoors.

"The snow doesn't bother them, except when it's belly deep they have trouble walking around," he said.

When it snows, the dairy cows, Holsteins, typically "pack down" together in the barn, but still go out for their daily exercise.

Some of the beef cows were out roaming in an open field on Tuesday afternoon.

"If the snow's not too deep, they enjoy it," said Tiffany. "They chew on the grass and run around and bellow and kick up their feet."

The farm used three tractors with snow plows to clear the snow, but the wind required frequent clearing of snow drifts around the barn and near the cows' exercise pads and feed bunks.

Tiffany said the farm was fortunate this year, compared with the blizzard of 2013.

"We had quite a lot of advance notice," he said about this storm. "We didn't lose power, which we're very thankful for."

At Graywall Farm in Lebanon, owner Robin Chesmer and his helpers, including some grandchildren, were moving snow all day, on top of other farm chores.

"We've got everybody helping out," he said. "We had to shovel out the calf hutches, and the feed bunks and the driveways. We've got skid-steers and payloaders and a tractor with a plow, so we're well equipped. But it is challenging."

Chesmer said the delivery truck collected milk from his 500 cows on Monday, a day early in anticipation of the storm, but would be back today, so he had to get all the snow moved by then.

"We'll be working at this until dark," he said.

j.benson@theday.com

Twitter: @BensonJudy

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