This year has already brought us subzero temperatures, snow, and ice. Worse, we have had massive weather swings with damp, warm days sandwiched in between. Without a doubt it has been challenging working conditions for farmers and veterinarians.
With calving season coming on strong, please remember that newborns are most susceptible to these weather changes. We see increased cases of pneumonia and scours when the weather fluctuates. Calves have very little reserves to deal with extreme cold, so it is important to address any sign of sickness promptly. Here are some other tips for surviving the cold:
Caloric needs increase dramatically in cold and mud. Increase feed accordingly. Digesting hay creates significant heat so make sure livestock have free access to quality hay. Bottle babies need an increased quantity of high-quality milk replacer or whole milk.
Water must be available at all times. Refreshing water troughs, especially with warm water, increases intake. This is important because dehydration impairs circulation, which is important for body heat.
Remember that sick or injured animals may not be able to keep warm, so take extra steps to protect them from the elements.
Address mudholes that may develop around waterers and round bale feeders - these are high-risk areas for disease and injury.
Provide windbreaks for outdoor animals. Animals in barns or stalls need plenty of dry straw or hay to bed down in. If you can control drafts and provide adequate bedding, even young animals can keep themselves warm.