Monday, January 6, 2014

Caring for Livestock in the EXTREME Cold

When the temperature drops below zero you suit up, do chores and don't complain.  When the real feel temp is around -50 you take notice!

We have to take extra measures to care for the cattle and chickens when extreme cold spells hit, and it's all about More! One reason we love our Hereford cattle is that they are very cold hardy and seem to have enough sense to take shelter when it's extreme outside.

Pedro with "The Girls" eating lots of extra hay
Cattle: More warm dry fodder (stalks from corn or soybeans) bedding, more hay and more trips to the water trough.  Bryce and Loren recently placed an extra hay wagon in with the cows.  Cattle eat approximately 20% more when the temperatures drop below 20 degrees. I imagine they are eating a much higher volume of feed today. We also spend a lot of time taking stock pots full of hot water out to thaw frozen water troughs.

We have three paddocks near the barns and each paddock of animals has plenty of access to the barns where they can go in and hunker down in the fodder.  On days like this I pray that their instinct to stay close and share body heat is strong. We also pray that it warms up so that we have enough hay to make it all the way to spring.
Chickens with two heat lamps and extra bedding
 Chickens stay in their coop when the weather is insane like this.  I used to open their trap door and wait for them to come out, but they just laughed at me! They currently have two heat lamps and we use the "deep bedding method" to keep it clean and create a bit of heat.  Deep bedding works much like a compost pile.  I thoroughly clean the coop each spring (not a fun job), we then lay out new wood chip bedding.  As the bedding gets dirty we lay down more new wood chips on top of the old ones and continue putting new chips on top of old until in mid winter we have a nice deep pile about 18" -2 feet deep.  The chips and manure on the bottom decomposes slowly and releases some heat which keeps the coop surprisingly comfortable on cold days.

Chickens roost close together in the rafters at night to take advantage of the rising heat the the chicken to chicken warmth. As you can see I have a heat lamp right next to the water to keep it partially thawed.  It has been working fairly well since our heated water tank broke. Chickens also eat a lot more feed in the extreme cold.

We even have one smart cat who lives under a heat lamp in the coop right now. I still need to figure out a trick to keep the eggs from freezing and cracking!

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