Keeping Livestock Warm during Extreme Winter Cold
Worried about keeping your livestock warm during these record cold conditions? Jackson County OSU Extension has put together a few helpful tips to keep your herds warm and dry all winter season long!
Although most livestock animals are well adapted to cold weather, extreme cold requires new ways of thinking about protecting them. Environment, food, & water are essential for keeping your livestock alive during winter storm conditions.
- Under extreme winter storm conditions, simple shelters alone may not be effective in protecting livestock. If possible, shelter animals indoors during extreme weather events and storms.
- Double the amount of warm bedding used. Hay or straw will provide the best insulation against the cold. Do not use towels or household blankets as they trap moisture and freeze.
- Keep bedding as dry and clean as possible in order to avoid susceptibility to pneumonia causing bacteria and viruses. Increased time spent indoors will increase the amount of soiled bedding material needing removal.
- Shelter animals from the wind. Trees, land windbreaks, other natural weather barriers and constructed shelters will assist in blocking winds. Attach extra tarps and windbreaking material to constructed shelters. These protected areas should provide all animals enough space to lie down safely without being trampled or smothered.
- Consider where snow will drift under different wind conditions and plan how to clear gates, shelter openings, barn doors, and roads when snow begins to accumulate.
- The time livestock spend in muddy pens and areas should be limited to avoid the development of foot problems and injuries incurred while moving across slippery ground. Stay alert to problem areas and note to resolve before a future storm.
- Having abundant and accessible feed will help animals maintain body temperature and survive cold temperatures.
- Make sure stored winter feed is of good nutrient quality for the type of livestock you are feeding.
- Rations of hay/forage/feed must be increased in order for livestock to maintain body temperature. Additionally, the nutritional needs of gestating and lactating livestock increase during cold temperatures. Failing to meet these needs may result in stunted animals, poor milk production, and weak or dead fetuses.
- Animals’ water consumption increases during cold weather because of elevated metabolic rates necessary to maintain warmth. Don’t assume livestock can meet their water needs by eating snow or licking ice. Make sure water is clean, free of ice, and in adequate supply. Make sure you have portable watering equipment or a way to maintain water for your livestock in case of extreme cold and ice.
- During cold, driving rains or freezing rain, animals should be monitored often. Shivering animals should be brought inside, if possible, to warm up. Be cautious; a sudden significant change in temperature can lead to respiratory problems, including pneumonia. Extremities that become wet or are normally damp are particularly subject to frostbite and freezing during sub-zero weather. Livestock may lose or have damaged ears and/or tails.
- Livestock blankets can be used on individual animals. However, the animal’s coat as well as the blanket material touching the animal’s coat must remain dry. Change livestock blankets and covers as necessary.
- Bring any small animals inside if able.
- Small animals such as rabbits, poultry, and very young and old livestock may need supplemental heat and/or protection. Heat lamps should be hung or placed out of reach of livestock so not to cause a barn fire, but should be low enough to small animals to provide an adequate heat source. Make sure any heat lamp chords are out of reach of any livestock.
- Monitor the status of your small animals often. Young/smaller animals are more at risk to cold temperatures - it is advised to bring in and care for young animals first, since they are more vulnerable than larger animals.
Overall, make sure animals are in good body condition and vaccinated. Livestock that are larger and in good body condition can handle winter weather and extreme conditions better than smaller or weaker animals.
Livestock owners should contact their veterinarian, county Agriculture & Natural Resource OSU Extension Educator, or the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Health at Phone: (614) 728-6220 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Karlsons, D. (2017). Prepare Livestock and Animals Ahead of Severe Weather. USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Public Affairs. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/09/28/prepare-livestock-and-animals-ahead-severe-weather.
New Jersey Animal Emergency Working Group. Tips to Protect Livestock During Extreme Winter Weather. https://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/animalemergency/documents/Tips_To_Protect_Livestock_During_Extreme_Winter_Weather.pdf
Tedrow, S. (2022, December 6). Colder winter requires more heating options for livestock. Wayne County OSU Extension. https://wayne.osu.edu/news/colder-winter-requires-more-heating-options-livestock
Turner, T. (2012, December 11). OSU Extension Expert: Cold weather increases livestock energy needs. CFAES. https://cfaes.osu.edu/node/880