Winter is upon us. As the temperatures drop, it’s crucial to have a plan to keep your livestock warm during the cold, blistering days and nights. Here are a few tips for a piece of mind when the temperatures drop.
1. Keep Enough Feed Available
A strategy to keep livestock warm during the cold winter is to feed cattle at night because heat from digesting food peaks a few hours after eating. Increasing the amount of feed can also help prepare them for the cold because a higher nutrient quality in the feed means more energy. Abundant and accessible feed will help livestock maintain body temperature, according to the Colorado State University extension. Having a supply of good quality forages like alfalfa or grass hay goes further rather than having extra rations of grain.
2. Shield Livestock from the Elements
Investing in a permanent or potable windbreak is an option for keeping livestock out of the wind, especially if there are no natural windbreaks like trees. Shelter requirements vary between species. According to Oregon State University’s Small Farms Program, sheep with thick fleeces will spend a lot of time outside during inclement weather and goats prefer to stay dry than eat. Doing research on what species requires what shelter. However, most animals prefer to be outside, and it’s also crucial to have access to fresh air to prevent livestock from getting sick, according to the Penn State extension.
3. Protect Livestock from Moisture
Moisture, in combination with cold temperatures, can be deadly, especially for newborn livestock. If there is moisture, livestock can suffer from frostbite and freezing, especially during sub-zero weather, according to the Colorado State University extension.
Read more: Handling Manure: Cold Weather Implications
4. Manage Mud
According to the Oregon State University’s Small Farms Program, negative environmental and animal health impacts of mud can be minimized with good management and planning. Mud can cause diseases such as foot rot and thrush and can also create an area for parasites to survive.
5. Have Bedding and Water Available
If livestock is wet from the snow or rain, it’s crucial to have bedding available. Bedding is available to help livestock stay dry. Providing bedding helps insulate livestock from the ground. Water is one of the most essential things livestock needs and it’s critical that they have adequate water intake just like in the summer. The University of Wisconsin extension recommends that water should be above 40 degrees Farenheit and water consumption varies based on the size of the animal, feed intake and production status. A chart is available to estimate water intake.