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January 07, 2014   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
January 07, 2014

Farm matriarch Amy Boyd keeps an eye on her daughter Stacey Nestor, right, and granddaughter Melissa through the rear-view mirror on the farm truck. The family worked long hours Jan. 6 and 7, checking on livestock and feeding extra pellets. Nestor said the additional food provides animals with the energy needed to stay warm in the subfreezing temperatures.

MONTGOMERY, Ala., - Strong winds whipped blonde ponytails through the air Monday afternoon as Montgomery County farmer Stacey Nestor and her daughter, Melissa, fed goats and cows in subfreezing temperatures.

At 3 p.m., temperatures were already in the 20s. Providing more hay and feed for livestock in such conditions is vital because they need more energy to stay warm, said Nestor, 43, a Montgomery County Farmers Federation board member.

"It's calving season for us, and we normally check the cows every day and feed hay every other day," said Nestor, whose family has about 150 cows and a small herd of show-quality Boer goats. "But in this kind of weather, we're checking cows more often. We've had so much rain that the ground is wet or frozen. A newborn calf can usually survive the cold, but with frozen or wet ground, there's a greater chance of problems.

"Several of our goats are due to kid (have newborns) any day now, too, but we're hoping that doesn't happen until this cold spell is over. At least our goats have shelter to get in from the wind."

The best cows can do is find a windbreak behind a barn or tree line. Frozen drinking water can also be an issue for livestock. Fortunately, most of Nestor's animals have access to streams or ponds that don't freeze. Farmers who depend on well water for livestock may face additional challenges trying to keep pipes thawed.

Besides Melissa, Nestor relies on help from her husband, Tim, a firefighter, and their older daughter and son-in-law, Emily and Luke Bond. Her brother, Barry Boyd, and her mother, Amy, round out the farm work crew.

"We don't have any hired hands," she said, smiling. "We ARE the hired hands. Since my daddy (Morris Boyd) died last February, we've all pitched in to keep the farm going."

Despite the cold and wind, the family matriarch drove the large flatbed truck with the window down, listening and watching carefully as the two younger generations poured feed to hungry cows Monday afternoon.

"It takes all of us working together," Boyd said. "That's what makes this a family farm."

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