Keeping Livestock Warm during the Arctic Blast

This year, winter is making an appearance across the United States. The National Weather Service has been busy releasing advisories and warnings over areas of the U.S. from the Plains and Midwest to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Everyone is getting a taste of winter's strength with snow, below freezing temperatures and bitter wind chills. This includes our precious livestock. "We want to remind livestock producers to take proper precautions to keep their animals safe during periods of cold stress," said Jeff Lehmkuhler, University of Kentucky livestock specialist.

As the temperature drops, livestock tries to maintain its core body temperature by increasing metabolism that can produce greater heat production resulting in increased feed intake for more energy. When producers choose to change a livestock's diet, it needs to be gradual in order to avoid any digestive upsets. Clean water should also be provided to help with their feed intake. According to the University of Wisconsin extension, they recommend that water be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and water intake varies based on the size of the animal, feed intake and production status. They have provided a chart to estimate water intake.

Proper shelter is also necessary to provide protection from the bitter cold wind and precipitation. If livestock need to be in the field, a portable or permanent windbreak is a great way to keep the livestock protected. If they don't need to be in the field, a barn with proper ventilation is where they should stay to keep warm. 

The hair coat on livestock needs to be maintained as it acts as insulation similar to home attic insulation that traps air which enhances the insulating value. That's why managing moisture and mud on livestock's coat is crucial during the winter. Moisture combined with the bitter cold temperatures can be deadly, particularly for newborn livestock. If livestock gets wet, freezing and frostbite come into play. It's important to keep their coats also free of mud.Mud on livestock's coats can cause diseases such as foot rot and thrush and give parasites an area to live.

Producers are hoping for expected relief from the frigid temperatures soon. In the meantime, keeping the livestock warm, so they can continue being productive, is the number one priority.

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