Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter Temperatures and Livestock

People often ask me how cold is too cold for the livestock? I will aim my response at cattle and goats.

In my opinion, the answer greatly depends upon the condition of the animal. An animal in good body condition, with a nice winter coat, no present illnesses, can do well in lower temperatures. I even believe, similar to our local Mennonites that urge their children to play outside in the winter, animals are healthier when they romp outdoors throughout various seasons.

The general rule of thumb for outdoor temperature safety is 32 degrees. With a lack of wind, sunshine, and no snow or rain in the picture, animals can be comfortable at 32 degrees. When the temperature drops below that point, ensure the animals have a place where they can take shelter to warmer when needed.

If it is raining, the rule of thumb is 60 degrees. This does not mean that the animals cannot be left in the pasture at 59 degrees, on a day with light sprinkles. When the temperatures drop below 60 degrees, and the coat of an animal becomes wet (down to the skin), it becomes more difficult for them to retain their body heat. Adequate shelter, such as a lean to, should be provided.

In the winter, animals have difficulty browsing and grazing, so quality hay is more important. Grain is a good additive, but quality hay is what keeps the animal warm. The better quality hay, the better a ruminant animal is able to regulate their own body temperatures.

A few more words...livestock generally do not shiver. When they shiver, they might be too cold, or could be ill. There are exceptions to this rule. I do have one full grown nubian doe that shivers every morning, but only because she is excited to get outdoors. Newborn animals cannot retain their own body heat very well, and they are susceptible to frostbite, the outlines above are for animals that are well on their feet.

The picture above was taken from my office winter last winter. Today the girls are indoors, the windchill is in the single digits, with snow flurries.

I plan to get back into the soap room tomorrow. I need about 7 new batches of lotions on the shelves by Monday. That is my goal date for the website addition. I had to run to town today, picked up new stick blenders. I have a habit of dropping them on the floor. That is quite the no-no on a concrete shop floor!

Take care...stay warm!!!


Anonymous said...

This is a good post but most of ours don't get a winter coat so we can't put ours outside without them catching some kind of cold, etc.

Stay warm Mary!

Peggy said...

I love the photos of your goats!! I agree that the eyes of a goat speaks so much. Kidding season is here for 4 of mine. One delivered twins so now waiting on the other 3and of course with the colder temps it will be now. LOL

Joanna said...

I don't have any experience with cattle, up here we get a lot of cold winds, wind chill factors will be zero or below at times, and the cattle have no shelter at all, I always worry about 'em. I don't know what their water situations are. In the winter, here in the NC Appalachians, a sunny 32 degrees with no wind, is a warm day here. Good post.

Mary @ Annie's Goat Hill said...

Amy, the girls looked like they had gained 10 pounds with their winter coats. Some seemed to thicken up in the neck, not sure if I was just seeing things there, LOL.

Peggy, thanks! Good luck with your kidding! And I'll be back to read up on our blog again. :)

Joanna, yep, isn't it funny how we find 32 degrees to be a "heat wave" this time of year?

Hidden Brook Farm said...

Good stuff! Colds were cut down to almost nothing when I quit babying so much:)