Colder weather woes (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is a retired professor with Delaware State University.)
Time flies when you are having fun!
It is hard to believe that it is already November and we have already been seeing some drops in the temperatures as we approach late fall.
Livestock producers need to be aware of the weather because adverse weather conditions can have an impact on their animals.
Sometimes these impacts can be quite minor but at other times, they can be much more severe.
Understanding the impacts of colder weather on livestock can make a big difference in your ability to be prepared for its impacts.
The first thing that should be on your mind during this time is the availability of feed.
For larger producers, who have their feed resources on site, this may not be a major problem, but if you have to ship feed onto your farm, you should always be sure that you have enough feed on-site in case of a major snow event.
For my own animals, I generally try to keep a minimum of one week’s feed on hand through the winter months, and truth be told, it is usually a two-week supply.
Another consideration during colder weather is that during times of extremely cold temperatures, some consideration needs to be given to the fact that most livestock species will have an increased need for energy during these times.
In some cases, this requirement may increase 15 to 20 percent, especially if the animals are kept outside.
The key is to pay close attention to your animals to make sure they are fairing well during colder temperatures.
If you are keeping ruminant animals, or herbivores, make sure you have enough hay or other forage on hand. I am constantly amazed at how many small operations do not have enough storage for the required roughage needs of their livestock.
In our area of the country, the hay feeding period is usually around 150 days per year.
So that means you need to have a 150-day supply of hay on hand in order to get through the winter months. If you do not have adequate pasture that amount may have to be adjusted upwards.
Many small livestock and horse producers do not have the equipment or land to put up their own hay so they rely on outside sources for this resource.
When possible, hay supplies should be stored away prior to colder weather and in general, hay prices are lowest during harvest time.
Some additional consideration should be given to the age of the hay as well. Older hay (more than year) may have a reduced nutritional content (especially vitamins) so you also need to be aware of when the actual hay was made.
Another consideration during colder temperatures is water. All livestock species should have access to unlimited fresh, clean water on a continual basis.
It can be difficult to keep water ice free when temperatures dip down but there are several types of frost-free waterers that should be considered to make this less of a problem. If you are forced to water your animals with a bucket or other non-insulated device, be sure to check them several times per day, removing ice and refreshing the water.
The last thing to consider in colder weather is shelter. Many livestock species can endure exposure to the elements provided they are properly fed and having access to water, however they all will benefit from some protection from wind.
If you ever notice animals that are outside in a storm, they generally face away from the prevailing wind and lower their head so that the wind does not blow directly unto their head.
With a thick hair coat, many animals can withstand temperature extremes, however, providing them with some type of wind break can make their lives better.
Contrary to what many folks believe, the worst thing you can do for most livestock is to close them into building during the cold.
Forcing them to breathe stale, moist air, commonly found in an old bank barn is one way to get them sick, often with pneumonia.
Access to the fresh air with the provision of some type of wind break, provision of appropriate feed resources and water will generally be all they need to remain healthy during these times.
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