Keeping livestock fed and dry crucial in cold weather

By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As Medicine Hat and area dips in and out of extreme cold spells, the Alberta Farm Animal Care Association is sharing tips on how to best care for and protect livestock in frigid weather.

“Cattle and other livestock are a lot like us when it comes to cold temperatures,” Melissa Moggy, veterinarian and extension coordinator at AFAC, told the News. “They have a normal temperature – called their thermal-neutral zone – where they are perfectly comfortable and can maintain their body temperature… When we get into really, really cold temperatures, (livestock) are no longer able to maintain their normal body temperature without being stressed out and having to work their metabolism faster so they’re generating more heat.

“If we have very cold temperatures, we’re going to have to compensate for those cold temperatures with more feed so that they’re able to keep a healthy weight… If we don’t (provide additional feed), they will lose weight and then it’s even more difficult for them to stay warm.”

As well as being conscious of food, Moggy encourages producers check their water supply often and ensure it remains unfrozen, as most livestock will not eat if water is not accessible.

Lastly, she advises producers to create a dry and clean area for livestock which is sheltered from the wind.

“We always recommend livestock have shelter from the wind. And this could be in different kinds of formats. This could be in a man-made building or it could be a tree line,” she said. “When (most) livestock have acclimated to winter, they do grow a winter coat… But that coat doesn’t work if the wind is getting through it or it’s really dirty or wet,” said Moggy. “Once (the animals) get wet, it’s so much harder to warm up again.”

Anyone with concerns about animal welfare is invited to call the AFAC alert line – an anonymous support line for producers – at 1-800-506-2273.

This item is reprinted with permission from Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat, Alberta. See article HERE.

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