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Livestock require more food, water in frigid temperatures

POSTED: January 24, 2014 12:49 a.m.

The best way to combat the freezing temperatures this winter? Eat like a cow.

“There’s always feed available for our cows if they stay in the barn,” said Dixie Truelove, co-owner of Truelove Dairy near Clermont. “And we will put out extra feed since it’s going to be really cold.”

Many animals increase caloric intake in the winter months, but it’s not just cows’ ample diet that helps them brave the cold weather. Having a natural body temperature of around 101 degrees also makes a difference.

In fact, cows generally like this kind of weather.

“They can stand the cold weather,” dairy farmer Mike Haynes of Muddy H Holsteins said. “The wind is not good on them. They don’t like it. They look for places to get out of the wind.”

The National Weather Service has placed Hall County under a wind chill advisory until 10 a.m. today, with wind chill readings as low as 10 degrees below zero. Gusts can be up to 25 miles per hour.

Cows, along with other livestock animals, won’t pay too much attention to the cold but will want to get away from the wind.

“The biggest thing (to check) is that they have some form of shelter to get out of the wind,” said Katie Seabaugh, assistant professor of large animal medicine at the University of Georgia. “Wind and rain are going to change their ability to keep themselves warm.”

Seabaugh said, on top of adding excess body fat, cows and horses generally develop a thicker fur coat in winter.

“(Horses) know how to self-regulate,” said Dana Ferguson, owner of Honeysuckle Hills Farm. “If they’re cold, they’ll move around and they’ll eat more.”

The biggest challenge for livestock has been for the humans.

“You have to make sure they have access to clean water that’s not frozen over,” said Michael Wheeler, county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. “They can lose a lot of water with the low humidity in the air and the wind.”

Watering troughs will freeze over, requiring those with opposable thumbs to get out there and break the ice.

“That’s the hardest part (for) us is to keep the water to the cows,” Haynes said. “They have to have the water with their other food to make milk.”

But as far as the milk goes, production is up. It’s in the heat of the summer when a dairy farmer begins to worry.

“A cow cannot sweat,” Haynes said. “She can’t get rid of her body heat so when it’s hot and humid, especially when the humidity is high, that’s when the cow suffers.”

This January has seen below-average temperatures as arctic air dipped into the Deep South, notably the week of Jan. 6. Another blast of cold air is sitting over the region through today.

After warmer temperatures over the weekend, the high Tuesday is expected to only be around 34, with an overnight low of 18.


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