Mike Fenske, of Wheatland, spends some time with two of his dogs on the family farm following last week’s cold blast. (photo by Jason Arndt)

Agricultural chores went on as other businesses closed

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

While schools, businesses and government offices closed during last week’s record-setting freeze, law enforcement personnel, emergency responders and farmers had no option but to brave the arctic air.

Mike Fenske, of Wheatland, was one of several area farmers who persevered through the subzero temperatures.

“We know what to expect when it comes,” he said last week. “We have tried to prepare for the coldest weather possible and so far we have gotten through it.”

Fenske braced himself for the elements while he cared for more than 600 pigs. It was not an easy task.

Considering the dangerous wind chill, Fenske acknowledged he and his family needed to take extra precautions.

“You have to prepare for it. You know January is going to be ugly a lot of times and (pigs) are just like human, they tolerate it,” Mike said. “But as caretakers, we just have to give them a little extra care in this crazy cold, that is for sure.”

He said the ideal environment is about 20 degrees at night and between 34-35 degrees during the day.

“That would be ultimate, but of course, Mother Nature doesn’t give us that kind of consideration, so we just have to take what she gives us and go with it,” Fenske said.

Fenske, however, took the weather in stride in spite of the circumstances, dressing in extra layers and putting his insulated boots to use.

The boots, he said, were bought before last winter and sat in the basement until this year.

“This year, I have had them on for about 20 days straight now,” he said.

The Fenskes, meanwhile, had another challenge on Jan. 30 when they were set to deliver about 40 pigs to Lake Geneva Country Meats for processing.

Like anyone else on Jan. 30, when the area experienced temperatures of at least 20 degrees below zero, the concern was whether his truck would start.

“That was a real challenge, because I didn’t know if the truck was going to run,” he said.

As for the pigs on his farm, Fenske said keeping them in a dry and in an enclosed structure was critical, considering wind chills dropped to around 50 below zero.

“They are not really thrilled about the cold, but as long as we keep them dry, and keep the draft off of them, they can tolerate it,” Fenske said.

To read the entire story and see additional photos see the Feb. 7 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.