Cold Weather Tips for Livestock Farmers
Developed by Donna Coffin, Extension Professor, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Jason Lilley, Assistant Extension Professor, Sustainable Agriculture and Maple Industry Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and Anne Trenholm, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry
When meteorologists call for frigid temperatures across Maine, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Department of Agriculture offer tips to protect workers and livestock from cold weather. There are also tips on what to do to prevent and repair frozen pipes.
The message and reminders seem simple, even with various farms and management approaches.
- Even if your farm animals appear contented, they still require all the basics and a familiar routine such as consistent good feed, fresh clean water, adequate access to shelter (especially if windy, cold, or wet), dry bedding, good traction in outdoor runs, and proper ventilation, and, if possible, some sunlight too.
- Know that animals may eat more, and need more frequent check-ins by people during colder weather. Be extra observant if anything seems amiss, for example, an animal is hanging back and not eating, or looks and acts lethargic.
- Ruminants and equines can get some extra body heat from gut microbes while digesting hay.
- Use common sense and do what you can to reduce adding more stress to the farm environment. For example:
- If an animal goes to drink at approximately the same time each morning or afternoon, be sure their water is not frozen when they go to drink. Provide fresh water before it becomes an issue.
- Younger animals might not have the same body conditioning therefore they may require extra bedding and possibly more protection from the cold. Provide blankets, ear muffs or both but be sure the blankets are dry.
- Take care of yourself, too by dressing appropriately, wear layers and protect your extremities. Stay dry. Take frequent breaks to warm up throughout the day when working outside.
For the farmer
- Ten Tips to Stay Safe Farming in Maine Winter: University of Maine Cooperative Extension
- Farm Safety Check: Working in the Cold: Upper Midwest Ag Safety & Health Center
- Cold Stress (in people): Ohio State University
- Protecting Workers From Cold Stress: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
General Livestock Care
- Watch Livestock for Hypothermia and Frostbite: North Dakota Extension
- Winter Animal Care: Michigan State Extension
- Frostbite in Chickens: eXtension
- Winter Care of Laying Hens: Bulletin #217, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Dairy & Beef Cattle
- Cold Weather Strategies for Cattlemen:Iowa State Extension
- Cold Stress Impacts on Cattle : South Dakota State Extension
- Severe Cold Weather Rangeland and Livestock Considerations: South Dakota State Extension
- Managing Dairy Cattle in Cold Weather: University of Minnesota Extension
- Winter Care of Equines (video): University of Maine Cooperative Extension
- Equine Facts: Winter Care for Horses: Bulletin #1007, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Sheep, Goats and Camelids
- Winter Management Tips for Sheep and Goats: Ohio State Extension
- Winter Care of Camelids (video) – University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Preventing and Repairing Damage
- Winter Storms: Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes: Texas A&M
- Protecting Water from Freezing: Iowa State Extension
- Livestock Disaster Plan: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Cold Stress: Center for Disease Contral (CDC)