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Colder Weather Tips for Midwestern Dairy Farm Employees

Updated February 18, 2021
Maristela Rovai

Maristela Rovai

Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Dairy Specialist

Dairy employee in winter clothing holding a shovel.
Courtesy: Canva

Written collaboratively by Maristela Rovai and Luciana Bignardi da Costa.

Cold and snowy winters are a challenge for dairy workers, especially for those immigrants coming from warmer climates where the temperatures do not fall to single digits. Hypothermia caused by cold temperatures, winds, presence of road ice, snow, sleet, and freezing rain can all be considered potential hazards for dairy workers. Informing the dairy workers of simple cold weather survival tips would be beneficial in improving their quality of life, both at home and the workplace.

Accidents are frequent during slippery conditions and adapting to these circumstances will reduce everyone’s risk of getting into an unfortunate situation.

Basic tips such as taking the time to do basic vehicle maintenance, have an emergency supply kit or instructions on how to drive safe in snowy days could help avoid life risking situations. We must remember that dairy workers are essential to the farms and the livestock needs them 24/7.

Dairy workers jobs require long work shifts. Thus, if you own a car make sure to inflate your car’s tires, your gas tank is filled, lubricate mechanical parts, and have an emergency kit on hand, so you can get home or to work safe and sound.

        Preparing the House or Trailer

        After a long day at work, you probably want to relax, feel warm and let go of the pressures of the day. Ensuring your house is adequately heated is important.

        There are a few simple ways to reduce the overall heat loss, make sure all windows are closed, replace damaged door seals, use carpet, and curtains.

        During winter, make sure to:

        • Watch for excessive snow on roof and remove it.
        • Keep ice off walkways to avoid slippery spots.

        Prior to winter season, make sure to:

        • Cover the windows with plastic to avoid cold air drafts.
        • Have salt or cat litter to keep ice off walkways.
        • Drain and/or cover all outside piping.
        • Have a shovel handy.
        • Check the furnace filters.

        Trailer homes:

        • Heat tape to be used on water / sewer pipes.
        • Proper insulate around the skirting.

        Winter Wardrobe Accessories

        When choosing what to wear, carefully select clothing that will not restrict movement (too tight can restrict movement and reduces circulation). Wearing appropriate clothing, or layers of loose clothing can provide better insulation for your body. Protect your face, extremities and feet – good waterproof and insulated boots with wool or wool-cotton blend socks are very helpful. Wearing a hat reduces the heat that dissipates from your head keeping your body warmer. Having extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, blankets, and a change of clothes could be necessary at work or in vehicle during the harsh winters.

        Prior to winter season, check if you have for working:

        • Lined jackets.
        • Lined overalls.
        • Stocking caps / hats and lined gloves.
        • Long thermal underwear.
        • Lined boots, waterproof and anti-slip.
        • Wicking wool socks.
        • Scarf protecting the neck.

        Safe Driving

        Car safety and driving carefully should be our number one priority during any season of the year; however, during winter we must be even more cautious behind the wheel.

        The three P's of safe winter driving as described by OSHA are: “PREPARE for the trip; PROTECT yourself; and PREVENT crashes on the road.” For that, it is important the car maintenance is up to date and the car is stocked with a few lifesaving items before the start of the winter season. The following table will help you be organized during winter:

        Prior to winter season, check all vehicles for:

        • Tire tread depth and properly inflated.
        • Windshield wipers.
        • Oil change.
        • Battery life.
        • Antifreeze.
        • Washer antifreeze windshield fluid added in the washer reservoir.
        • Clean car windows.

        Keep always in the car:

        • Salt, sandbags or cat litter for extra weight and traction if needed.
        • Cellphone charger and car adaptor.
        • Battery jump pack for cold weather.
        • Chain to secure a vehicle to be towed.
        • Ice scraper.
        • Shovel.

        Emergency Bag with:

        • Non-freezing foods: chocolate, cereal bar, nuts, or peanuts.
        • Water bottles for hydration.
        • Extra winter clothes: coat, scarf, hats, and gloves.
        • Blanket.
        • Flashlight, candles and lighter.
        • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag on car antenna.
        • Antifreeze.

        During the winter season, make sure to:

        • Plug in diesel vehicle if needed.
        • Use #1 diesel or add diesel treatment in the fuel.
        • Pump your breaks slowly when on ice.
        • Give more distance in-between vehicles.
        • Keep fuel tank at least half full.
        • Buckle up.
        • Awareness of wildlife eyes reflection.
        • Drive slowly and do not make sudden corrections.
        • Turn off your cruise control.
        • Turn on lights.
        • Caution with bridges. They will freeze first due to no ground insulation underneath leaving the entire structure being surrounded by cold air. Slow down before entering a bridge because it might be icy.
        • Roads that appear to be wet may contain ice that is called “black ice.”
        • Dial 511 in South Dakota or check online for road conditions on the Safe Travel USA website.
        • Dial 911 if you are strand in your vehicle and/or dangerous conditions.

        Important Body Signs Associated With Winter

        The temperature drops, wind starts blowing and the snow piles up, suddenly everyone starts taking their winter clothing out of the wardrobe. We cannot control the weather, but we can take control of how we will be protected during the winter.

        Hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature) and frostbite are both cold-related emergencies and considered as dangerous conditions that can happen when we are exposed to extremely cold temperatures.



        Hypothermia: It occurs when our body loses heat faster than it can be produced, causing a drop in the body’s core temperature (below 35.0 °C or 95.0 °F in humans). We should be aware of the following signs:

        • Fast and shallow breathing / trouble breathing.
        • Going from shivering to not shivering.
        • Hunger, fatigue and confusion.
        • Lack of coordination.
        • Increased heart rate.
        • Weak pulse.
        • Slurred speech / mumbling.
        • Dizziness and nausea.

          It is important to be aware that these conditions may quickly become life or limb threatening. Preventing cold-related emergencies includes knowledge and action. Be sure to check the outside temperature and limit your time outdoors if it is very cold, wet, or windy.

          If you experience any of the following cold-related emergencies remove wet clothing, wrap the body in blankets, drink warm beverages, if possible, take a warm bath to help raise body temperature and seek for medical help immediately.


          Frostbite: The exposure to extremely cold temperatures may lead to a reduced blood flow to the extremities (hands, fingers, toes, feet) causing frostbite. We should be aware of the following signs:

          • Cold skin, prickling feeling and numbness.
          • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin.
          • Hard or waxy-looking skin.
          • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness.
          • Blistering after rewarming when severe (expect exposed skin to peel off).
          • If the skin turns black seek medical attention.
          • It can cause the tissue to die which is called gangrene.

          Winter Vocabulary (English to Spanish)

          English (Ingles) Spanish (Español)
          Blizzard Tormenta / Tempestade de nieve (nevasca, ventisca, nevazón o viento blanco)
          Cloudy Nublado
          Cold Frio
          Drizzle Llovizna
          Fog Niebla
          Forecast Pronóstico
          Freezing Congelación
          Hazards Peligros
          Icy Helada / Gélido
          Insulate / Insulating Aislar / Aislante
          Sleet Aguanieve
          Slick Resbaloso
          Snow Nieve
          Snowfall Nevada
          Snowplow Quitanieves
          Storm Tormenta
          Temperature (abbreviation temps) Temperatura (“temps” es la abreviación)
          Timing Medida del tiempo
          Warning Advertencia o aviso
          Watch Alerta
          Wind Viento
          Windchill Sensación térmica
          Waterproof Resistente al agua

          Winter Expressions (English to Spanish)

          English (Ingles) Spanish (Español)
          Accident potential or risk increases Aumenta / Incrementa el potencial o riesgo de accidentes
          Air quality Calidad del aire
          Bitter cold Frío extremo / Frío cortante
          Blizzard warning (blizzard is now) Advertencia de una tormenta de nieve importante ocurriendo
          Blizzard watch (blizzard is expected in 36 hours) Alerta de tormenta de nieve (Se espera la tormenta en las próximas 36 horas)
          Blowing / Drifting snow Nieve que sopla y se dispersa
          Bridges will be the first roadways to freeze Los puentes en las carreteras serán los primeros en congelarse
          Brief warm-up Calentamiento breve. Se refiere a un incremento de la temperatura en un corto periodo
          Chance of snow Probabilidad de nieve
          Cold temperatures Temperaturas frías
          Creating areas of low visibility Creando áreas de baja visibilidad. Se refiere a las condiciones del tiempo que se espera
          Dangerous are not going away anytime soon Las situaciones peligrosas no van a desaparecer en el corto plazo
          Dangerous windchills Peligrosos vientos fríos
          Dense fog Niebla densa
          Drifting snow Acumulación de nieve
          Emergency weather and natural hazard messages Mensajes meteorológicos de emergencia y de desastres naturales
          Emergency alert system Sistema de alerta de emergencia
          Expected a couple periods of light snow Se espera períodos de nieve ligera
          Expected impacts Impactos esperados
          Expected timeline Plazo previsto. Significan la previsión de cambios esperados para las próximas horas o días
          Extreme cold Extremadamente frío
          “Feels like” temperature La temperatura o el frío que se siente realmente afuera
          Fine layer of ice that forms during freezing drizzle Capa fina de hielo que se forma durante la llovizna helada
          Forecast ahead Previsión del tiempo
          Forecast could be altered slightly over the next few hours La previsión podría modificarse ligeramente en las próximas horas
          Forecast ice accumulations Previsión de acumulaciones de hielo
          Freezing drizzle Llovizna helada o fría
          Freezing drizzle expected Previsión de llovizna helada
          Freezing rain o precipitation Lluvia gélida o congelante / Granizo
          Frigid temperatures Temperaturas frías
          Ground blizzard (wind is picking up the snow on the ground) Tormenta de nieve en la superficie (el viento recoge la nieve por el suelo)
          Heavy snow Fuerte nevada
          Ice storm Tormenta de nieve
          Impact / Impacting the region Impacto / Impactando la región
          Light glaze of ice on elevated surfaces (“black ice”) Hielo glaseado o placa de hielo en superficies elevadas (hielo glaseado es una cubierta delgada, transparente y homogénea de hielo depositada en la superficie tras precipitar la lluvia congelada en el suelo)
          Light snow Nieve ligera
          Light snow coming Llegada de nieve ligera (aguanieve)
          Light snow showers Chubascos de aguanieve
          Light to moderate snow amounts Cantidad de nieve leve a moderada
          Light winds Viento suave
          Limit outdoor time Las actividades al aire libre deben verse limitadas
          Low visibility Poca visibilidad
          Monitor the forecast Vigila la previsión meteorológica
          Near to below average temperatures are expected Se esperan temperaturas cercanas a la media
          No travel advised (because travel conditions are extremally difficult and hazardous). Everyone is advised to not travel except for emergency situations No se recomienda los desplazamientos en coche (porque las condiciones de carreteras son extremadamente difíciles y peligrosas). Se aconseja a todos que no conduzcan excepto en situaciones de emergencia
          Partly to mostly cloudy Parcialmente nublado a muy nublado
          Patchy blowing snow Nieve o ventisca desigual
          Patchy fog has been slow to dissipate Zonas de niebla han tardado en disiparse
          Patchy slick spots Puntos resbaladizos irregulares
          Persistent freezing drizzle will begin on Sat and linger through sun night Pronostican una llovizna helada continua que comenzará el sábado y permanecerá hasta la noche de sábado
          Potential for 10” of snow Pronostican hasta 10 pulgadas de nieve
          Potential to changeover to snow Potencial de cambio a nieve
          Precautions to take with the cold temps Precauciones a tomar con las temperaturas frías
          Reduced visibility Visibilidad reducida
          Road closures possible Posibles cierres de carreteras
          Road closed Carretera o vía cerrada
          Roads becoming slick and ice covered Las carreteras se vuelven resbaladizas y cubiertas de hielo
          Road impassable Camino intransitable
          Round of wintry weather Fase de clima invernal
          Safety tips Consejos de seguridad
          Shelter belt or windbreak (a line of trees protecting home or buildings in the country) Cortavientos (muchos árboles en línea que protegen casas, edificios o granjas en áreas rurales)
          Slick spots Puntos o zonas resbaladizos
          Slippery roads Carreteras resbaladizas
          Snow covered roads Carreteras cubiertas de nieve
          Snow falling / snow fall Caída de nieve
          Snowstorm Nevada
          Temperatures below freezing Temperaturas inferiores al punto de congelación
          Travel impacts Impactos asociados a viajes
          Untreated roads or surfaces (low maintenance roads) Carreteras o superficies sin retirada de la nieve acumulada (mantenimiento reducido)
          Use caution when outdoors Tenga cuidado cuando esté al aire libre
          Wind chill advisory Aviso de aire o viento frío
          Wind gusts Ráfagas de viento
          Wind speed and direction Velocidad y dirección del viento
          Winter storm warning Aviso de tormenta de invierno
          Winter storm watch Alerta de tormenta de invierno
          Winter weather advisory Aviso de clima invernal
          Wintry weather expected Se espera un clima invernal

          Temperature Units Conversion

          Fahrenheit, °F
          Celsius, °C
          – 5
          – 10
          – 15
          – 4
          – 20
          – 13
          – 25
          – 22
          – 30
          – 31
          – 35
          – 40
          – 40

          The temperatures near or below freezing are: 32°F or 0°C.

          Other Important Winter Tips

          Do not drink alcohol to keep you warm. For dairy farm employees, alcohol may seem like the perfect cold-weather beverage that creates a sensation of warmth and comfort.

          Alcohol decreases core body temperature regardless of the temperature outside and will increase hypothermia risk. In this way, the feelings of warmth are momentary, and continued use of alcohol lead to intoxication and disorientation and also can lead to frostbite and/or fatal outcomes.

          Check weather reports daily and get weather updates on your phone. Roads can quickly become slick and ice-covered while you are getting ready to leave the house or the work.

          On a snow day:

          • Plan on Leaving earlier to get to work.
          • Do not leave your vehicle if you get stuck, it provides shelter until rescue personnel can reach you.
          • Drink enough water to stay hydrated.
          • Keep cellphones charged.
          • If you change your routine, notify a colleague or family member.
          • Check on family and friends.

          Getting to our jobs during a snow or ice storm can be stressful. Drive carefully, leave earlier and, when possible, do carpooling with your colleagues. Let’s go smart and make the most of winter, working comfortably and getting home safe and sound.

          If you need a specific protocol or guidance for sharing with your employees and colleagues, let us know. We will be glad to help.

          You may contact us: