In the past, you've read about winter stocker management tips, winter pasture, winter wildlife management and what to feed your cows. Now, I would like to look at some other winter activities besides feeding the cows or getting to some of those other chores put off from this summer. (By the way don't forget about those cedar trees on the backside of the ranch you still haven't cut down.)
Wintertime is the perfect opportunity to catch up on what is new in agriculture, and one of the best tools for doing that is the Internet. Take time to explore the Noble Research Institute's Website and University Extension Websites for new information. If you have a question or need specific information, call the Ag Division's Help Line at (580) 224-6500 or check the Web site at www.noble.org/ag.
Another important item to accomplish before winter arrives is winterizing your sprayer. In late fall, thoroughly clean the sprayer to remove any chemical residues (follow the label direction for cleaning the sprayer) and remove any part(s) that could be damaged during the winter months.
Start by removing the strainers and washing them by hand (wearing chemical-resistant gloves) with soapy water. Rinse them and either store them or place them back in the sprayer where you can find them next season. Next, look closely at the nozzles, nozzle bodies and check valves. If you don't thoroughly clean the nozzles and related hardware, chemical residue can build up over the winter in these areas and harden. The chemical residue buildup will dramatically reduce the sprayer's performance next season. Are there old nozzles on the sprayer that haven't been changed out in a few years? If that's the case, you might as well budget for new nozzles. For what they cost, they'll save in herbicide and aggravation next year.
Remove nozzle tips, screens, check valves, caps and nozzle bodies from the nozzle body assemblies. Correctly plug the assemblies to keep spiders and insects from building nests in the hoses. Clean and rinse out the nozzle tips, nozzle bodies and check valves. Store in a marked container where you can find them next season. Store check valves at room temperature over the winter to avoid damage by freezing temperatures. Remove all pressure gauges and cap the openings on the sprayer. Find a safe place to store the gauges where they will not be knocked around or freeze.
Finally, circulate antifreeze through the sprayer and all lines. Loosen the caps on the nozzles' bodies so the antifreeze can completely fill the boom line. Tighten the caps when the boom line is full. This helps to reduce cracking and drying out of the hoses and reduce the amount of moist air trapped in the sprayer. Let the antifreeze sit in the valves and pump to avoid freeze damage and reduce rusting. If possible, store your sprayer in the barn or out of the weather to reduce the amount of damage from the sunlight hitting the hoses.
In closing, don't do as I did last year. I still haven't found the box with the gauge, nozzles and strainers. Maybe next year I will put the parts in a tackle box. That way I'll be sure to find them!