With the cold temperatures we experienced this past week it was hard to stay warm even when walking from your car to inside a building. In my mind this raised the question, “How do farmers keep their livestock warm during the cold winter months?” By using prior knowledge and doing some additional research, I have come up with the answer to how farmers keep their animals warm. The process goes further in depth than just these things, but it really comes down to a few key strategies. 1. It is important to keep enough feed available to the animals. 2. Farmers make sure that they are shielding their livestock from the elements. 3.It is critical to protect the livestock from moisture (this one is a really big deal). 4. The fourth factor is to manage mud as much as possible. 5. Finally, the animals must have dry bedding and water available.
1. Making sure that the animals have enough food is important because food provides them with energy needed to stay warm. The most heat that will be provided from food occurs a few hours after eating, so if animals are fed at night before bed it helps them stay warm throughout the night. In addition to having intentional feeding patterns and increasing the amount of food, it is beneficial to add more protein into the animal’s diet to keep them warm.
2. The most common way of shielding livestock from the elements is by providing them a shelter to go to. The type of shelter needed varies for each animal and for each climate. Moving animals inside can be a difficult decision sometimes because it is easier for disease to spread if the animals have to be close together and there is not good fresh air flow. Farmers have to find the perfect balance of the shelter having adequate ventilation and being protective enough against the elements. Adding extra heat inside of a shelter can also be done to help keep the animals warm. Another strategy that can be used in a shelter is to add plastic livestock curtains to doorways. The plastic curtains provide protection from the outside weather, while giving the animal a chance to move in and out.
3. Having adequate ventilation in a shelter is not only important for helping prevent spreading disease, but is a key factor to protecting the livestock from moisture. When moisture is combined with the cold weather, it can quickly lead to harsh things such as frostbite.
4. Managing mud is one factor to warmth that may not come to mind as quickly as the other factors listed. However, considering the discussion as to why the other factors are important, it makes perfect sense why it is important to manage mud. When the animal’s coat is covered in mud, it drops effectiveness on its ability to insulate the animal. Walking in the mud also takes more energy from the animal than not walking in mud does, and in cold temperatures the animal needs as much energy as possible to help them stay warm. Animals standing in mud are susceptible to diseases such as foot rot or thrush. Mud also creates an area for parasites to survive, then the parasites can transfer to the animal.
5. Dry bedding is important for the same reason you want to keep additional moisture away from the animal. You don’t want the animal to get frostbite and if the bedding is wet, it doesn’t help them stay warm. The bedding also helps to insulate livestock from the ground. Water is important to keep the animals hydrated. In the cold temperatures the farmers must be sure that the water stays above 40 degrees fahrenheit.