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Delmarva Farmer Columnists
Cold weather readiness (Jan. 17, 2017)
By Dr. Rich Barczewski, Associate Professor, Delaware State University
While this winter has been relatively mild so far, cold temperatures are to be expected this time of year.
For livestock producers in our region, colder weather should stimulate some additional activities as we make sure that our animals are safe and secure.
One of the first things we need to realize with colder weather is that most farm animals are perfectly equipped to handle cold weather as long as we provide them with several essential items.
First, during periods of cold weather, nutritional needs, especially in the form of energy, will go up.
Swine producers will routinely increase the amount of feed they feed their breeding animals during periods of cold. If the animals are housed outside, additional bedding may be provided in some sort of shed that will serve as a wind break and a shelter so that the animals can get out of any inclement weather.
Most animals can do well in the cold as long as they have some sort of wind break.
When forced to stand out in an open space, many animals create their own micro environment by lowering their heads and placing their backsides toward the wind. In this way they protect their heads from the wind by using their bodies as a shield. When provided with the appropriate areas, cattle, horses, sheep and goats will often seek out hedgerows, tree lines and even woodlots as additional places to avoid the wind.
Many folks do not realize that closing animals inside of a building that is not properly designed can actually result in the animals getting pneumonia. In cases where properly ventilated buildings are not available, most livestock would do better outside with a windbreak instead of being closed in.
All animals regardless of the environmental temperatures need access to clean, fresh drinking water. This is especially important for hobby farmers to realize as watering systems on very small operations tend to be prone to freezing and ice or snow is not a suitable source of water for any livestock.
Larger operations often provide water through some sort of frost free device. Over the years, there have been many technical advances in frost free watering devices and some are available that do not require electric.
However, with any frost free waterer, there is an expected flow rate to keep the water flowing through the system and this may be impacted by the number of animals using the specific device.
Be sure to read the directions that come with any frost free watering system to make sure you have the appropriate situation to avoid them freezing.
Cold is one thing to deal with but snow, sleet and freezing rain is quite another. I have always been amazed at how our area dairy farmers have been able to get the milk trucks to the farm. Cows have to be milked twice a day and that obviously can be a challenge during serious snow events, but on top of that, milk trucks need to get to the farm on a daily or every other day basis.
Unlike some commodities, milk is perishable and it is critical that it be picked up from the farm and returned to the processing facility on a regular basis.
From the consumer end, it is kind of funny when you realize that milk is one of the things that is depleted from the grocery stores soon after it is announced that there is a snow storm pending.
Most households do not want to be without milk if they are holed up following a storm for a few days.
All livestock producers need to be prepared to insure access to their animals in the event of a major snow event.
In cases where producers rely on purchased feed, it is always a good idea to make sure you have enough feed on hand to get you through any tough times.
Likewise, if you have any young stock on hand, that require supplemental heat, you may need to have back-up systems in case of power outages.
Being prepared during times of weather extremes is an important part of good animal husbandry. Making sure you can adequately feed, house, and protect your livestock is a major responsibility of producers.
We may not be able to control the weather, but with proper planning, we can be ready for just about anything that Mother Nature throws our way.
Restoring duck habitat helps sustain ‘Circle of Life’ (Jan. 17, 2017)