There is a lot of buzz online about how busy farmers are during planting and harvest. But that’s just a few months out of the year. What about the rest of the time? What do farmers do in the off-season?
Exactly what farmers do in the off-season depends on what kind of farm they have. But regardless of the type of farm, it’s usually a lot of maintenance. Farmers need to do maintenance on their equipment to get it ready for planting in a few months. Their equipment has been used long hours over just a few weeks, so it needs a little extra TLC to keep it running in good shape.
There is a lot of planning for next year. Making sure that they have a plan for which type of crop go into which field, they have a plan for which hybrids or varieties are going into which field, and that each field is prepped for the winter.
If a farmer has animals, there is no off-season. The animals always need to be cared for with plenty of food and fresh water. Dairy cows need to be milked every day. There are always new groups of piglets or turkeys coming in that need to be cared for.
We raise beef cattle and hay. Our busy season (for the farm and our veterinary practice) is the summer months. We do get a little down time, for the farm at least, during the fall and winter months. That’s when Farmer Doc does maintenance on the equipment and fences. This fall, he had a new fence line to put in.
This is the fence post auger. It is much easier to attach this to the back of the tractor and use it to dig a row of fence post holes than to dig them each by hand! It looks like a giant drill, which is basically all it is.
He hooks the auger up to the back of his tractor, and lines up where he wants the hole to be dug. (He started by marking each spot in the grass with spray paint.)
Then he lets the auger do the work to dig the post hole. When the auger is completely buried, he’ll have a hole that is 12 inches in diameter and 3 feet deep.
The cows are in the next field over. Farmer Doc is getting their winter pasture ready for them. They don’t seem to be bothered by the tractor noise.
After all the holes are dug, he sets a post in each hole. Farmer Doc is 6’4″. The fence post is even taller than him! (Remember, it will go about 3 feet down in the ground.)
Once the post is in place, he tamps a layer of dirt around the post to hold it steady and keep it straight.
Then he pours in a layer of concrete mix. The concrete mix will absorb enough moisture from the ground that he didn’t need to add any extra water.
The concrete doesn’t go into every hole, just the ones that will have extra stress. Corner posts, and posts that are attached to gates have a lot more stress and wear-and-tear on them, so these get extra reinforcement with the concrete.
After the concrete, he fills the rest of the hole with dirt, and tamps it down again.
Farmer Doc will let these posts sit at least overnight. Then he’ll tamp the ground down again to be sure the posts are stable. Then it’s time to string the high-tensile wire, and attach brace wires to the corner posts. (The brace wires go diagonally from the top of the post to the ground to give them even more support.)
That is what our off-season looks like. Farmer Doc might not be very busy working cattle, watching for calves, and harvesting hay, but he keeps plenty busy with all the other projects that need to happen on a farm.