Food, water, shelter are keys to livestock care in dangerous cold weather

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2022

BROOKHAVEN — Cattle, chickens and other livestock will need some care this week as temperatures and wind chills drop below freezing in Lincoln County. Ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and horses will need plenty of food and water in addition to grains.

MSU Extension County Agent Tristan Peavey with the Lincoln County Extension Office said food and water were two of the most important things in cold weather care for animals. Cold temperatures require animals to produce more energy to maintain body heat. 

“This results in animals needing more calories. Ruminant animals need plenty of hay as well as food with some grain for extra energy,” Peavey said. “Animals still need an adequate supply of water when cold weather arrives. While their demand is not as high as it would be in the summertime, they still need access. This means you need to make sure water sources do not freeze over. There are tank heaters on the market or you can make one at home.” 

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It helps to have a voltmeter when checking water supplies as any electrical current will deter animals from drinking the water. Insert one end of the voltmeter into the ground and the other into your water supply to get a reading in case there is a problem. 

Peavey said another thing people can do is to make sure their water lines or faucets on water sources do not freeze and bust. 

“Fixing a busted water line in the freezing cold is less than ideal. Insulating pipes can become a life saver,” Peavey said. 

Another way to help your livestock and animals in this cold weather is to provide a bedding area protected from the wind so they can conserve energy. Peavey said chickens, pigs and even cattle could use some extra bedding straw indoors or behind a windbreak to help them maintain body heat. 

Dry hay can also work as bedding but make sure an area has adequate ventilation as an area can become too warm. Animals should be able to handle the cold weather at freezing or just below freezing, he said. 

“Animals can make it through the cold weather without issues as long as the necessary resources are provided to them. Food, water and an area to get out of the elements should ensure livestock remain safe through winter weather,” Peavey said. “If you have questions feel free to reach out to me at Stay warm and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”