Polar Vortex - Extreme Cold Farm Ops Tips

For those of you with experience in the cold climates, what do you do to prepare for the brutality of it on the farm?

We’ve got the thread going on tips for tractor starting, but there’s so much more. What all do you put in place to get your work done more easily, stay safe, keep the animals healthy?

Lots of hay for the horses and layers of clothes for me.


This weekend our high is -33C plus wind-chill to take us to -47C and that’s for the high of the day!!! I make sure I put any round bales that I need to out, and make sure all the snow is plowed so I don’t need to start the tractors. I make sure the barn is filled with square hay and straw. I also turn up the heater on the watering bowl, and may even run a heat lamp in it.

As long as I am prepared it’s doable. The horses stay in a lot more, and I make sure they get extra hay.
I have invested over the years in good winter clothing, and I can handle the cold as long as I am dressed appropriately.


I’m really worried about our extreme weather next week. For some reason, bitter cold scares me. Has anyone ever left a oil filled heater running in the barn? I think it has a name- looks like it’s an old fashioned radiator. I’m worried the heat tape won’t keep the pipes from freezing. Thx!

If you’re in an area that isn’t set up for dread cold, pile up what you clean out of stalls around your outdoor hydrants and maybe consider covering those piles with some plastic. The bacterial action in the manure creates heat, the plastic keeps it around the hydrant and with luck, no frozen hydrant.

And remember that if your horses are dry, out of the wind and have plenty of hay, they will stay warm.

Best of luck. It’s hard to have a farm in extreme weather conditions.


Move to FL?

Course we are getting some uncommonly cold weather this year. One night the low was 24 F here! I forgot to bring my hibiscus inside and they died.

Best of luck to all of you tough winter climate folks

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We never know when winter will start or end. The long, fairly warm (30-40Fs) fall was so nice! The few days of cold near Christmas came and went, then near 40Fs again until recently.

Part of my winterizing takes place in the fall, when working outside is easy, no frozen parts on my body. Check fences, sll wires stapled up tight. Fences are hot all the way around the farm. So MUCH easier to repair in warmer weather! Gates open and close easily. Water tanks in insulated wood boxes, with a half cover on the top. Half cover holds heat in better to prevent freezing. Other half cover there for covering tanks at night when horses are inside. Tank heaters working. 12gauge, lighted end, electric cords are run if needed, hung from fence posts to keep them off the ground, out of snow piles. We run tank heaters only at night for cheaper electric and no chance of heater leaking electricity so horses won’t drink. Spare new tank heater on the shelf in case a heater dies. We use the big circle, pipe looking circles, easy to replace if needed. No reason to empty the tank to make an ice slick.

Coolers and blankets handy if needed to dry them or warm up a cold horse. The old horse has his 3 different weight “covers” ready when needed. He mostly needs wind protection, has a lovely coat. But after one chilled horse episode, Vet call, he now has to wear a covering during winter. He is uncovered nightly in the barn to fluff again, with no wind. So far, it has mostly been his rainsheet, but upgraded to a light blanket last week with the mId 20F to 30+F, but good wind chill. . Heavier blanket is hanging ready for teens to 20F, with the very heavy blanket if we get single digits during the day hours. The other horses go out uncovered, but we bring them in early on really cold days. No shelters or much windbreaker outside. Hay rations go up as the temps go down. They have insulated plastic bucket holders in the stalls, heavy plastic, which have been really nice keeping water liquid in the cold. We might add some hot water to hose water if temps get in the teens. I like saving on the electric, not using heated buckets, or possible fire danger keeping them all plugged in.

This is our second year of leaving the hose lay outside. No well at the barn. We attach one end to the air compressor and blow out the hose. We let it blow at least 10 minutes past seeing any spray come out, which seems to “dry” any connections or pockets of water inside the hose. So far, no frozen hose! This saves quite a bit of time daily, unrolling, then rolling the long hose up again, putting hose cart in the tack room to keep it warm.

I suggest getting something HEAVY to put on the loose hose end before attaching the compressor. That loose end really whips about under pressure, could hurt you or damage something it hits!! We have the big shop compressor, lots of air getting pushed thru the hose. Love this method as a time and work saver. We do have extra hose sections stored in case of hose breakage. Cold plastic will surprise you, and not in a good way!

We get our sawdust delivered, trying for the “normal” times of moderate weather, less snow and before the frost laws on road weight go into effect. That is usually March, but last year it was the first part of Feb! Just got a load in yesterday, so we should be good until April.

Tails got bobbed off in Nov, they look nice. No tails dragging to collect ice or mudballs. Kind of funny looking down the tie stalls, seeing rumps, that I got tails all even! Same distance on everyone from the ground to hair! That almost never happens. Cutting does make tails look darker and thicker. Length will be back by spring.

Tractor implements parked in an orderly fashion in front of the barn, back away from travel lines. Landscape rake in front, should we get sheet ice. That rake is very handy to break up sheet ice, get reasonable footing in the barnyard or a path to the pastures, driveways, so we can then plow ice away. We plan for the worst, nicely surprised when we don’t get that weather!


One simple tip for the colder days where pipes may freeze, leave some faucets running overnight.
We hear that all the time about houses.
Is the same in barns, where you can do that without causing more problems.

Next week we will have lows around 0F and highs below freezing for several days.
At least now we get advanced warning, before the only warning was a blue northern blowing in.
By the time we realized it was coming we hurried to the plains to gather and drive heifers to protection in the canyons under the caprock as it started to snow and blow.
Once there and settling them around water, riders looked like snowmen and horse’s faces were all white, frosted over, even the whiskers.

Since today we have advanced warnings of those cold fronts, if we are well prepared, they generally run their course and we come out the other end just fine.


I second the advice about getting insulation around the riser of your hydrant. Surround it with hay bales or an old horse blanket.

One thing to remember is that windchill does not affect inanimate objects. They won’t get any colder than the true air temperature. So for the “physical plant”, I don’t overreact when I see the minus 30F wind chills we’ll have for the next few days. The real low is “only” minus 5 to minus 10. Not like that’s a piece of cake, but our systems are all designed to handle that. Hydrants are deep enough, and none of our house plumbing is on exterior walls. We’ve got a wood stove that we’ll keep cranked to help the furnace out.

The horses will be blanketed and have a roundbale. The goats have a heat lamp and deep bedding in their shelter. The cats all have heated cubbies. The chickens have a heat lamp and I’ll put a second one up tonight to make sure everyone who wants to be warm has the opportunity to. One thing I have to do differently is gather eggs a couple times a day or otherwise they will freeze. In the end, everyone will be a bit sullen but we’ll get through.

Our wildlife is really suffering, though, because we’ve had deep snowcover since before Christmas. We’ve gotten new snowfall every week–we’re just stuck in a pattern. So they’re having to work really hard for food and this bitter cold may be the final straw for a lot of animals. In the last week I’ve found 2 dead raccoons and opossum. At lunch today I noticed a bunch of ringneck pheasants pecking at bare twigs out along the fenceline, barely visible through the blizzard we’re having at the moment. So I suited up and waded through 3ft snow drifts to dump about 10lb of corn and sunflower seeds in a few spots along the fenceline near where they were. Hope it helps them through, the poor things. :frowning:


might want to make sure the compressor tank has been drained as it will contain water which entered the tank as the air was compressed

Yes, wet compressor air can be an issue.

Oh the poor wildlife. Many have a very hard time in winter. If anyone has birds and feeders, fill up the feeders w/ seed and sprinkle a lot on the ground. Many smaller more timid birds will eat off the ground if the bullies and bigger birds hog the feeder.
I also put out lots of cracked corn for the crows and squirrels when it’s cold. But they also eat off the feeders.
Even here in Florida we’ve had some very cold days and nights lately and the birds are eating
a lot more than normal trying to stay warm.
I pity you all with the extreme cold coming in. Stay safe and warm.


Total vent here but soaking hay this year for mini, I have a heated tack room so all will be fine. But yikes what a mess, I am dreading next week.

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My biggest cold weather tip is insulated bibs like Carhartts. :grinning:

I love this hat too: https://www.carhartt.com/products/Fleece-2-in-1-Headwear-A202

I have some skiing/snowboarding goggles that I put on to walk to/from the barn when the wind is bitter and/or whipping the snow around.

Love my heated automatic waterer so I don’t have to mess around with hoses. If you have a stock tank definitely recommend having a spare heater on hand.

My barn chores are pretty easy since my two have free access to the tuck-under run-in barn so no stalls to deal with. They choose to spend 99% of their time outside, even in the most frigid weather. They have good coats and no health issues so I don’t blanket them either.


Years ago there was a thread here on COTH about a self draining hose from Canada. Sadly, it was a retailer who posted it so it got deleted. But I managed to buy some and they are still terrific. 68 yo me, very bad back and all, can carry 150 feet of hose on one arm. We have used the ones I bought at least 6 years ago year round, but they are really wonderful in the winter when it’s easy to carry out lots of hose, disconnect it so it self drains and then bring it into the tack room which is heated to just above freezing. The fittings at the ends won’t drain completely, and if you roll it up before it drains all the way there will be some frozen water in the loops. That’s why we keep them in a warm place.

This looks like the same product, but may be lighter weight. I’m not sure. And mods, I have no part in this company. I’m just posting it as an example.

If you decide to use something like this there are two negatives: it kinks easily, and if a horse with borium or studs walks on it, it will cause a leak. We find it easy to repair, but YMMV.

After reading about lightweight hoses somewhere (possibly on this board), and my husband’s back going out so suddenly I had to do water instead of his carrying buckets, I ordered a 100-foot “Aqua Joe Fiberjacket” hose which looks very much like this but with an outer fabric layer. I’ve only used it for a few weeks but I’m loving it! I stuff it into a 5 gallon bucket (100’ just fits) and keep it in the house since nothing in our barn is heated.

Our water pressure is low so I knew that the expanding hoses (100’ shrinks to 33’ without water pressure) wouldn’t work for me but this does. There are a couple other brands that seem to be the same sort of hose - Bionic Force for about the same price and Teknor Apex Zero-G for about 50% more (but based on reviews it seems that Teknor actually honors their warranty).


Going to be -15 to -20 this weekend with windchills going to -30. Not looking forward to it.

All vehicles are garaged (except the truck, which lost it’s spot to the new Mule, but it has a block heater I can plug in if I think I will need it). I know I will use the Mule, so it’s in the warm house garage.

Filling gas tanks in cars, running on less than half a tank can be bad in these temps, so we try to keep them full

Heated Buckets are up, but not filled yet. I don’t fill them unless I am keeping horses in. I have a heated hose if I need to fill buckets or I can do bucket brigade. I’m curious about the expanding hoses as the heated hose works great, but it is heavy. The good thing is you don’t have to make sure it is empty.

Haven’t decided if I will stall them overnight. They have shelter from wind and 24 hour access to hay outside. Extra bedding in stalls in case they come in. Hay ready if they spend the night. All depends on what the temps are doing, the predictions keep changing…

If they stay out I will probably blanket the 30 year old, although he has a good coat and is in good weight this winter.

Will probably increase temp in office. It is set at 55 and that should be fine, but I might increase since the main water hydrant is inside the bathroom there and the pipes are near a wall to unheated wash stall. I have a freezeless faucet in the wash stall on the cold side, but sometimes it has failed. I’m hoping the recent repair takes care of the issue.

Will check the waterers frequently. I’ve already insulated and covered the two that see little use in winter. The circuit for those two has a red light I can see from the house so I will know if that fails. The open one is usually fine, but will need to keep an eye out. I have heated water tank if the waterer fails.

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Wow @foggybok. Sounds like you’re ready for anything! Horse keeping isn’t fun under the circumstances you’re facing but you have it all thought out. Best of luck. And where are you located?

be sure to disconnect hoses to frost free hydrants so they can drain (or at least loosen the hos connection so the water can drain)

I started using expandy hoses when we lived in MN, and they’re AWESOME for winter. A 50’ hose fits easily in a little 2 gallon bucket and weighs, I dunno, maybe a pound? It takes no time to drain, toss in the bucket, and carry inside.

If left outside, water WILL freeze in the fittings, which is a hassle. But if that’s happened, I drop both ends into a heated tub, and five minutes later, it’s ready to go.

They’re not the sturdiest things out there–I expect about a year out of a hose with daily use. Often, you can find them for sale on Amazon with a warranty, though. The last one I purchased offered a TWO YEAR warranty! For, oh, 30 bucks? Even if I have to pay to replace yearly, it’s worth it for the convenience though!

They expand with pressure, so having decent pressure out of the spigot matters. A heavy sprayer on the end will keep the end where it’s supposed to be and reduce flow enough to keep the hose expanded during use.

Overall, five stars, love the expandy hoses, especially for winter, but they’re also so much easier to handle year round. Would be really sad if they all suddenly disappeared from the market and I had to go back to big, heavy, traditional hoses!

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