The Midwest is experiencing record breaking cold temperatures. The Polar Vortex has set in and some areas are seeing temperatures colder than Antarctica. Schools and universities are closing left and right along with businesses and even some post offices. However, livestock still need to be fed and taken care of.
The National Weather Service predicts bitter cold temperatures from Jan. 29 to Jan. 31 across the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.
There is a wind chill warning in effect through noon CST Jan. 31 stretching east from North and South Dakota and Nebraska through Pennsylvania. Life-threatening wind chills are forecast along with blowing snow. Wind chills will be as low as 60 below zero with wind gusts as high as 35 mph.
These wind chills can cause frostbite in as little as five minutes. Furthermore, many can expect blizzard conditions with heavy snow.
Farmers and ranchers spend a good portion of their time outside doing chores. With waterers freezing, cows calving and more, it is crucial to have proper winter gear and make sure all skin is covered. It’s time to dig out the long johns and wool socks and put on layers to avoid the cold. Double glove your hands and stock up on hand warmers.
Additionally, you should put together an emergency travel kit for those working outside. This should be stocked with extra winter gear, blankets, jumper cables, hand warmers and more. You should also keep your vehicle running with the heater on between stops. This allows the vehicle to stay warm and gives you a chance to warm up between stops.
What to Expect When Doing Chores
In October 2013, an unexpected blizzard struck South Dakota. The storm resulted in a 5% loss of cattle for the region. Since experiences such as this, we have gained more knowledge on what to expect and how to combat them.
First, you should expect snow drifts. These can damage fences and buildings, block pathways and prevent vehicle access to feed animals. Accumulations of snow can bury or trap cattle, especially young animals, and prevent them from reaching shelter or feed. This is especially important to keep in mind in the midst of calving season.
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.
This is also important when it comes to male reproductive organs. Cold damage to reproductive organs can impair fertility or the animal’s ability to breed.
Moreover, livestock need abundant and accessible feed to maintain body temperatures and survive cold weather. Extra feed during these times will help keep up body heat and maintain body condition. Also, make sure the feed is high in nutrient quality.
Likewise, water is one of the most important sources livestock need for this time. It is also one of the most cumbersome parts of winter chores. It is crucial to ensure water is clean, thawed 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. If feasible, use heaters in water tanks to provide livestock with adequate water.
Additionally, keep up to date on your insurance policies to make sure you are protected in extreme winter weather. Make sure you have tools, rope, blankets, lights, and a portable generator with extension cords and fuel ready to use in case of emergency. Ensure tractors and vehicles are maintained and protected so they will be ready to use in extreme cold weather and snow/ice.
Farmers and ranchers brave all conditions to tend to their livestock. If you aren’t outside working in this weather, be sure to thank those who are. If you are outside, stay safe and follow these tips to get through the extreme weather spells.
Image courtesy of American Cattlemen