Many farmers and ranchers are packing up cattle and equipment for this winter while fitting in any last-minute projects to start the spring off strong. They plan on using winter to their advantage to get ahead next season.
Like many, Walter Schweitzer and his family are spending their time finishing up projects they couldn't tackle in 2020 like garage renovations, fixing fences, and putting up gates. There's so much that must be done on the family farm to keep it running 24/7.
"If you don't keep that constant maintenance up the cows can tear it down and you start to lose ground," said Walter Schweitzer, President of the Montana Farmers Union.
Many times just one job on the farm takes weeks and months worth of prep. Everything can change in an instant if Mother Nature comes swirling through.
"It really does put a kink in your plans because we were geared up and we're planning on doing a little bit of work to our corrals and change out a fence and it just put all of that on hold," said Schweitzer.
He had to delay some plans in October when over a foot of early snowfall coated his land. Schweitzer adds, "To do that branding you've got to get your corrals and make sure sealed up so that you don't lose animals out of them. Maintain the boards and fences."
This year is a little different though and January delivers more hope, "It's been an opportunity for us to do some of the Fall work that we did not get to do in October. If you remember in October we had a whole bunch of snow," said Schweitzer.
Fortunately, they weren't doing any major corral updates on the Schweitzer family farm, which could have yielded devastating financial impact if production was halted even for a short amount of time.
When they can't work outside, the work continues inside. Walt says out of all of the jobs on the farm, tracking records is their least favorite.
"My wife's the bookkeeper. She's also my HR person, and my secretary, and of course she runs the farm. I know that we spend way more time dreading doing it than probably actually the time spent doing it."
No matter what, they don't have a choice and must hit the books to log everything from finances, expenses, payroll, sales, and upkeep costs.
"It has to get done. The bills have to get paid. The taxes have to be paid. The work/comp report has to be done," said Schweitzer.
Everything's about to come full circle for the Schweitzers. Right now they're working on selling their bulls, which is we our story first started with them just about a year ago.
Once the bull are sold off he starts the calving process all over again, tracking weather patterns closely to track plan his next move.
Montana Family Farms is sponsored by the Montana Farmers Union. Each story focuses on Walter Schweitzer’s life on the farm and a bigger impact on the industry across the Treasure State and beyond.