Winter is a difficult time for farmers. If you do not have crops to plant, your land gets hard and tough to till and your animals could suffer from stress due to the icy climate. If you have cows, sheep, pigs or other livestock on your farm, it is imperative to manage the cold weather effectively, as it could lead to disastrous results.
Look for farm equipment for sale which can make this easier, and be sure to have plenty of insulation in your stables and barns during this time. Outlined below is some helpful advice on how to manage livestock in cold weather.
A good general rule to follow is that for every degree that effective temperature is below the lower critical temperature, the animal’s energy needs increase by one percent. One way that livestock such as cows respond to a drop in temperature is by increasing their voluntary feed intake.
This means that you will have to look into providing more feed to your animals, especially to cows. This is because during the colder months, the passage of roughages through the digestive tract and rumen increases, which means that their appetite and voluntary intake increase. It is important to ensure that your feedstocks are high enough so that you will be able to feed your animals during the winter months.
Some people assume that during colder weather, the need for animals to drink as much as they do in hot months decreases. This is untrue. You still need to provide clean potable drinking water to your livestock in cold weather, as if there is not enough water available some animals may also stop eating, which can be a fatal decision.
Tank heaters may be needed so that water does not freeze or you could use other methods that are safe for cattle and other animals. Ensuring adequate water intake will prevent illnesses such as colic or impaction, and will help your livestock to remain healthy during winter. Clean, unfrozen water needs to be provided several times a day if you are not using a tank heater, as animals cannot gain enough water a day by eating snow or licking ice.
Shelter from cold weather does not have to be as fancy as an elaborate heated barn, and it might be better if it is not. If your shelter is too warm and does not have enough ventilation, then there is the possibility of ammonia fumes building up from the urine and manure excretions.
Livestock are generally fine in the open air and should be given access to a three-sided shelter facing out of the direction of the cold wind, with plenty of good insulation. Always ensure your barns, stable and pig stys are well ventilated and cleaned regularly, in order to avoid animals contracted illnesses such as pneumonia or other respiratory problems. Provide enough clean bedding for them to make a warm space to bed down in for the night.
Where there are animals, there is bound to be mud. In winter, mud can become trapped in your cow’s or sheep’s fur, which can be detrimental to their health as cold mud and cold water can cause respiratory problems and the irritation on their fur can cause undue amounts of stress.
Geotextiles, gravel, tile, gutters, sand or wood chips can be used to manage winter water movement and decrease the amount of mud that is created in the wet weather. Mud can cause diseases such as foot rot and thrush, and it can mean that the lower half of your cows’ or horses’ feet are perpetually cold, causing discomfort and illness. Rock removal equipment can help to create a flat surface lay the wood chips on over the mud.
Your animals might have special health concerns in winter, especially if they are pregnant. You will need to speak to your veterinarian about vaccinations, nutritional supplementation and deworming protocols before and during the cold months, so you are well prepared.
Do not eliminate physical exercise from your animals’ routines simply because it is cold. Your livestock needs to be able to move around in order to promote muscular and skeletal health, so you should look into methods such as varying the location of feeding and watering sites daily and allowing the animals to walk outside when there is sunlight and it is slightly warmer. Ask your veterinarian for advice on how to handle any seasonal illnesses.
Cold weather can be difficult to manage for livestock farmers, but by following some simple tips you can have a successful cold season without any harm coming to your livestock. Remember to provide more feed to them as their energy needs increase, ensure they have access to clean, unfrozen drinking water and always try to manage the mud levels. Give them adequate shelter from the wind and be sure to exercise them regularly.