Save time in the bitter cold by prepping now for Old Man Winter’s arrival

As cold weather approaches, producers can save themselves a headache down the road by making some winter preparations ahead of time.

Set Up Shelter and Windbreaks

Fortunately for producers in the Ozarks, it is rarely necessary to worry about shelter requirements. 

“Farm animals, in general, are pretty well equipped to cope with winter-time conditions in south Missouri,” Eldon Cole, livestock field specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, explained. “The exceptions are when it drops below 20 degrees with wind and/or wet weather. Of course, the most vulnerable are newborns. We walk a fine line on providing protection for the young or maybe overdoing it by putting them in a shed where ventilation is compromised.” 

Livestock such as dairy goats and swine like a well-ventilated barn or shed, but for stock like beef cattle and some breeds of sheep, outdoor windbreaks work well. Cole recommended placing animals in pastures with natural windbreaks, such as a line of cedar trees or sloped land, to the north or northwest. 

A man-made windbreak can be constructed out of round bales in pastures with no natural features, or to compliment them. 

Be Prepared for Chilled Calves

If producers are calving this time of year, it pays to have a plan of action for coming across a chilled calf. Cole explained there are several ways to warm up a badly chilled calf. A common method is placing the calf in a heated pickup cab, if the producer can get the calf away from the cow safely. Bringing the calf inside the farmhouse for a bit can also help warm them up. Keeping old towels or blankets on hand will help warm the calf and keep everything as clean as possible. A gentle bath with warm water is another method to perk up chilled calves. Some producers might want to consider purchasing a commercial calf warmer, but they aren’t cheap. Cole advised producers who opt to purchase one recognize that one heater could potentially cost the value of a weaned calf.

Evaluate Feed Resources

It is a good practice to take stock of all available feed resources before the temperatures drop. “Due to the poor fall growing season, more forage will be required on the tail end of the winter. Consider stretching the hay or haylage with various higher energy feeds like corn, soyhulls, distillers, corn gluten feed or even some alfalfa hay,” Cole said. Having a plan to maintain or move feeding areas is also wise to cut down on mud and its accompanying health and management problems. 

Consider Producer Comfort and Convenience

Producers need to take extra care in the winter as well. Replacing worn coats and coveralls and taking stock of gloves, warm socks, etc., will help keep out the cold during chores. 

Cole also recommended producers consider their own comfort and convenience when it comes to the location of livestock’s winter quarters, especially if they are calving. 


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