By Tom Collins
SUNBURY — Farmers treated the recent cold snap the same way they do every year: One day at a time and with lots of layers.
Ottawa was under an extreme cold weather warning from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2. On New Year’s Day, the weather dropped to -30.2 C. With the wind chill, it was about five degrees colder.
Ottawa was at least -17 C or colder every hour from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, the longest ever run of temperature this cold. The last time it was that cold for that long was exactly 100 years ago.
Farmers across Ontario have taken the cold in stride. Robert Sonneveld, who milks 150 cows in a tie-stall operation with his brothers, Jeff and Richard at Sunbury in Frontenac County, said the body heat from the cows kept the barn a little too warm.
“We use tunnel ventilation,” he said. “We actually have a fan that’s on three-quarters of the time just keeping the barn cool.”
Kim Sytsma, a beef farmer at Athens, keeps young cattle in the barn but older cattle in the field. She said while tractors have been slow to start and some pipes need thawing, farmers deal with the cold temperatures every winter. The only difference this year is that the cold came earlier and longer than normal.
Sytsma has a frost-free water system in the barn, where it’s just a matter of pouring some hot water on the floats to get it running again. In the field, the cows have a cedar bush for shelter and extra fresh feed is brought out to them every day.
“You don’t want them to start to lose weight because it’s cold,” she said.
One dairy farmer in Western Ontario put doors on calf hutches to keep the animals warm.