Cold weather livestock tips

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winter cows Yvonne Bellay, DVM, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, advises livestock owners to prepare for cold-weather care of their animals.

“Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather injuries, and harsh conditions can weaken their immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to illness,” Bellay said in the Department’s Animal Health News newsletter. “You need to think about extra nutrition, access to water, plenty of good bedding, and proper shelter for both pets and livestock.”

For livestock owners, Bellay advises:

  • Shelter — Generally, a 20-mph wind is about equal to a 30-degree drop in temperature.  Make sure animals have a place to get out of the wind, even if it is just a windbreak or a three-sided shelter, and that other buildings don’t deflect wind and snow into the shelter.
  • Food — Livestock kept outdoors will need more food than usual — and good quality food.  As a general rule, nutrient requirements increase about 1% for every degree that the temperature falls below 20° F.  Horses’ nutrition requirements increase below 45° F.
  • Water — Provide access to fresh water – not frozen streams or snow – daily.  Stock tank heaters and frost-proof watering systems will ensure than livestock get enough to drink.
  • Bedding — Keep plenty of dry bedding to insulate udders and legs from frostbite.
  • Moisture — Long hair or fleece insulates only when it is dry. Wet or muddy hair or fleece loses insulating ability and actually cools the animal as it dries.
  • Transportation — When hauling animals, especially calves and swine, cover openings in the vehicle box to cut wind chill and keep rain out, but allow some air to pass over the animals for ventilation. Provide a deep bed of dry straw for calves younger than 4 weeks or for any swine. Be especially careful with animals recently brought in from warmer climates that may not be acclimated. 

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