Livestock producers doing best to keep animals warm

By Nigel Maxwell
December 31, 2018 - 2:00pm

This cold weather snap is tough on livestock too.

Tim Oleksyn, a cattle producer west of Prince Albert, said as the temperatures drop, the animals need more feed, which means higher costs. 

"You need that bedding and you need that extra feed to allow them to maintain what they do and not lost ground," he said, adding an ample water source and good shelter is also very important.

Oleksyn said animal husbandry also becomes more important when the temperatures drop. He said he watches his animals closely during the winter months.

"You make sure you are watching the ones that aren't getting up, that aren't stretching or are not comfortable or lagging way behind," he said.

Producers across the producers felt the pinch this year from a hay and feed shortage. Oleksyn said some of his own yields were down but overall his operation, which is a bit more mature compared to others, was not too badly impacted. He explained he is fortunate to be able to plan in advance.

"I prepare for enough feed for a year and a half just for one winter but there are lots of operations we've offered bedding to that don't have that same opportunity to capture that," he said.

Tara Kennedy, a Prince Albert agrologist, said one of the trends she has seen this year is producers feeding their cows less quality feed due to costs for high quality feed and the shortages.

"That's fine to help fill in some of the gaps, but if that's all you're feeding this time of year when it gets really cold, the cows can't eat enough of it to maintain their body weight," she said.

Kennedy said grain provides a good supplement for the cow to help maintain energy levels. She said a good rule of thumb is for every five degrees below -20 Celsius is to increase grain supplements by two pounds.

"We are sitting at -30 C so they should be getting an extra four pounds to maintain their energy," she said.

Kennedy said the expected warm up on the weekend is good news, given that many producers will start calving soon. She said calves have no defenses against this cold and farmers will need to find a warm, dry place for animal births. 

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