NEWBERRY TOWNSHIP — As temperatures drop into single digits and lower, area farmers have additional responsibilities in keeping their livestock safe and comfortable.
Many people take it for granted that cows, pigs, and other farm animals are “designed” to acclimate to colder weather. To a degree, that is true, but when temperatures and wind-chills drop to bone-chilling levels, even the heartiest of animals needs extra care.
Sarah Fraley operates a small farm near Covington, where she raises a variety of livestock, from chickens and goats to horses and cattle.
Fraley knows, that as uncomfortable as it may be to go out to work in the barn during subzero weather conditions, her animals count on her to care for them, no matter how harsh the conditions.
Perhaps the single most important winter care requirement for livestock is the availability of drinking water. As temperatures near zero degrees, water can freeze in less than an hour, leaving livestock with a trough filled with water, but no way through the frozen surface.
There are only two options, said Fraley. One is to purchase a heating device that keeps water sources free from ice. The downside is that electricity must be available. The resulting use of the heater will raise electric bills and if not done properly, animals can possibly chew into wiring, either disabling the heater of potentially causing a fire. The second option is frequent checks of water containers — day and night.
More frequent and/or heavier feeding of livestock is important during frigid conditions. Fraley said that during cold weather, livestock burn more calories as their bodies attempt to stay warm. Although animals may seem to be just standing in a field or barnyard, their systems are attempting to keep their body temperatures up, burning calories as this happens. This additional effort burns calories at a more rapid rate, necessitating additional food to compensate.
Extra bedding is another necessity during cold weather. Just as humans and pets appreciate a nice warm place to sleep, our livestock need to have comfortable sleeping areas, and in an unheated barn, an extra layer of straw is necessary to keep them warm.
As a farmer, Fraley is constantly aware of her animals living conditions. Fraley’s “other” job is as a Miami County sheriff’s deputy. Fraley said that in recent days, the county has seen an increase in calls from area residents concerned about living conditions and care of both pets and livestock.
Deputies remain vigilant in checking out reports of animals that are not being cared for properly and will enforce laws that are in place to protect animals. Law enforcement officials would rather anyone who owns or cares for livestock or pets remember that animals need extra care during the winter. The few extra minutes that you spend outdoors caring for your livestock can make a difference in keeping your animals alive through the winter months.