Forecasts show that east winds will dominate in the coming days, dropping daytime temperatures and making overnight frost a common feature, particularly on farms in upland areas.

A continuous period of low and freezing temperatures could mean water pipes are at risk of freezing. Frosty conditions pose challenges for farmers going about their daily routine.

Removing the cover on the silage pit: Take care when moving the cover on top of the silage clamp, as frost will make the plastic very slippy.

Ideally, remove the cover in daylight over the weekend, exposing enough silage to last for a week. Wait until the frost has lifted before climbing on the pit and use a ladder that is properly secured to make the job safer.

Water provision

If there is exposed water piping that is prone to freezing, apply some form of lagging for insulation. Filling an IBC container with water will provide a good back-up in the event that a water pipe does freeze and burst.

Have a few spare joints in store, just in case repairs are needed. Leaving an outdoor tap slightly turned on will also reduce the risk of pipes freezing.

Just make sure water is being collected in an IBC or drain pipe, rather than running across the yard and creating ice.


Check that tractors and loaders are topped up with anti-freeze and keep a spare battery or booster pack to hand, just in case older machines are slow to start on mornings following heavy frost.

Moving the fence for cattle grazing kale

If cattle are being outwintered on kale or crops such as forage rape and stubble turnips, do not move the electric wire to give the next grazing allocation in the morning.

Wait until the frost has lifted. Frost will increase the nitrate levels in such crops and can lead to poisoning if cattle ingest excessive levels.

Delay cattle handling tasks until afternoon: If the yard has ice lying, delay any tasks where cattle have to be removed from the shed for handling until the ice has thawed.

Pneumonia Issues

I have heard reports of pneumonia in sheds this week. Watch for signs of animals not eating or dull. Take some temperatures if you’re not sure as you can often pick up some sick animals with a temperature who have no symptoms.

Temperatures of weanlings should be 38-40°C. Consult your vet. Some farmers have found allowing autumn calves outdoors for a few hours every day has helped reduce pneumonia incidence.

Don’t forget about booster shots if you are on a pneumonia vaccination programme.

I have spoken to a vet this week who has come across a few bad cases of worm problems in weanlings. The animals were dosed in August and housed in early November, but picked up more worms with the mild wet weather.

Look for signs of ill thrift and poor appetite and make sure they are covered for fluke, lice and worms over the next few weeks.