January 10, 2016

How Do Kentucky Livestock Farmers Care for their Animals in the Winter?


The winters in Kentucky can be extreme and bring many challenges for farmers who raise livestock. We asked our contributors to respond to the following question: How are you caring for your animals to ensure their comfort?


Although cattle are less susceptible to the cold than humans, we still take every precaution to keep safe & comfortable. We unroll round bales every morning to keep from having large amounts of mud gather in one particular area. If there is snow on the ground, this gives the cattle a warmer place to lay. It also keeps them from all laying around one round bale and potentially smothering a calf. Our calving season has just begun, so we carefully check each herd at least three times a day. If a cow is close to calving & the weather conditions are getting worse, we'll get her into a barn where she'll have more shelter. When freezing rain has hit in the past, we had two calves born during the storm that were just too cold and wet to make it though. We chose to bring them home and put them in our bathtub to try and get their body temperatures back up. Both were taken back to their mothers after they were warmed up and did fine. Farmers care for their livestock, no matter the weather, and will do just about anything to assure their safety!​ - Amanda Gajdzik, Shelbyville


We house our pigs in barns, and they do not realize its cold or hot outside since the barn is climate controlled. The baby pigs have heat mats and heat lights when they are first born for extra warmth. This is the best environment for them to live and not be effected by weather elements.- Leanne Ragland, Hodgenville


The key for my family has been preparation. When we have a really pretty day with higher temps they prepare for the next one even when they don't know if one is coming. On a dairy, the cows are enjoying the cooler temps but not the wind. So we have placed siding on our free-stall barn to block the wind from being harsh. This has been working well for us this winter. One of our major challenges is when a cow calves. When a calf is born on nights where we have negative temperatures and snow we need to make sure that calf gets the nutrition that is vital for its survival. We try to make sure the calf gets dried off so it doesn't get frost bite. - Carilynn Coombs, Smithfield



We really try to keep a close eye on our cattle during the days of harsh cold temperatures and intense wind chill. We have fed our best quality hay during the worse weather. We have also used weathered round balls as a bedding for the cows. We have been deliberate in checking and feeding the cows grain in the morning and the evening, rather than just in the evening during some of the coldest days. We have also checked the automatic waterers to make sure they were not frozen so that the cows always had access to water. We have provided our cows with access to a barn that serves as a wind break and chance to get out of the weather. The cows have had access to minerals as well.​ - Miranda Chaplin, Shawhan


This winter has been very challenging for livestock. To ensure that the cattle have fresh water we go out at 5am and 10pm to completely drain the waterers and let them refill with warm water. This helps prevent them from freezing over. We have also fed hay outside of the hay ring so that they can use it for bedding. The cold isn't just hard on the cattle but the equipment as well. We have been up til midnight trying to get tractors and loaders started to feed silage and hay. A couple times we've had to go to the neighbors and borrow their tractor...thank goodness for them! I wish I could say I've made it through the winter without having to make the dreaded call to my husband saying I got a piece of equipment stuck...better luck next year. As he says, as long as we have something bigger to pull you out with than it's OK! - Carly Guinn, Danville

We also found this link from our Kentucky farm blogger friend:


How do family farmers prepare for winter storms?
Celeste Harned, A Farm Wife's Perspective

A Kentucky beef cattle farmer shares how her family farm prepares for a snow or ice storm. This afternoon, Lorelei and I are headed to the grocery store. We’ll pick up enough milk and eggs to make it through the weekend and fill the car up with gas just in case the ice/snow that’s predicted really hits us. We’ll put a spare coat and a few heavy blankets in the trunk of the car, just in case we get stuck somewhere. That’s it. A shopping trip and a few little errands and we’re ready for winter weather.

For farm families, however, there is so much more that goes into preparing for winter storms. Every farm family is different, but this is how my family prepares for winter storms on our beef cattle farm.

Read more

The following video from the Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board shares how Kentucky farmers work to care for their animals before they care for themselves.


Also see our page on Animal Welfare with additional videos.  

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