It’s easy to joke about or take lightly the weather forecaster’s dire storm predictions — when they don’t pan out. But rare is the winter when at least one major storm doesn’t hit home. Get ready today and you can help ease the inevitable winter storm’s impact — all across your farm.

1) House/Home. Often we put the comfort and welfare of our livestock ahead of our own. But you’ll more effectively be able to care for your animals if your family and dependents are safe and sound.

The American Red Cross offers several tips for readying your home for winter. Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Safety: Winter on the farm is tough and can be extremely dangerous. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Instead, take preparedness steps and Be Ready to weather the most challenging conditions. Make sure all vehicles (including tractors) have at least a basic winter emergency kit. When faced with winter’s worst, don’t venture out unless absolutely necessary, and make sure to have a fully charged cellphone along at all times.
  • Power: Standby generators are a must for livestock operations that rely on a constant, dependable electric supply for ventilation, automated feeding equipment and milk coolers. But they offer more than convenience on farms without livestock, too. Generators can provide the power that keeps pipes from freezing, furnaces running and communications devices charged. Losses in productivity and expenses incurred during a long-term power outage easily can offset a generator’s cost. This guide from Virginia Cooperative Extension can help you select the right generator for your operation.
  • Food and comfort: It may seem obvious, but in the rush to prepare shelter, livestock and equipment for a pending winter storm, don’t forget to stock your own personal supplies. Make sure you have plenty of food, water, firewood, heating fuel, etc.

2) Equipment. Winter is tough on us and our equipment. Work with your Case IH dealer to make sure tractors, loaders and feeding and snow removal equipment are serviced and ready. Here are some additional guidelines:

  • Maintenance: Review your operators manuals and make sure you’re current on service intervals. Check front-end loaders and other equipment for structural soundness; look for cracks and repair them. Inspect hydraulic hoses and fittings.
  • Fuel and supplies: If you haven’t checked your on-farm fuel storage since harvest wrapped up, do it now, and make sure you have an adequate reserve. Check batteries and fuel filters, as these items routinely fail in cold weather. Visit the Case IH Genuine Parts Store and stock up on the supplies you’ll need to make it through winter.

3) Livestock. Planning for and providing the basic needs — food, water and shelter — will help keep your animals healthy and productive over the winter months. The animal science department at your state’s land grant university or your county Extension agent can provide additional recommendations specific to your region. Meanwhile, consider these points:

  • Shelter: Although most livestock are content to live outdoors year-round, shelter and windbreaks can help them better cope with winter conditions. When it comes to the most severe weather, it may help them survive. Windbreaks can be as simple as barns, open sheds, tree groves and even stacks of hay. Winterize barns and other shelter buildings. Inspect roofs and make sure they’re stable enough to hold the heavy weight of snow and ice. Make sure heaters work properly and are located in a spot with good ventilation.
  • Water: An adequate and dependable supply of water will encourage optimal health and performance of livestock. Make sure that fresh water is available several times a day. If you rely on tank heaters or de-icers, be sure to test your equipment to ensure it’s working properly. Take other steps, such as insulating the pipes and faucets, to prevent your water source from freezing.
  • Nutrition: Adjust rations to compensate for additional energy requirements during harsh weather. Inventory feed supplies and make sure you have plenty on hand. Position hay so it’s easily accessible. Stock up on animal health supplies and check that livestock-handling equipment is in good working order.

No matter what the weatherman says, don’t wait to ready your farm for winter’s worst. Your preparedness likely will ease the season’s stress on you, your family and your livestock.