Bitter cold creates livestock cold stress

-A A +A

University Extension Service
Recent bitterly cold temperatures moved the livestock cold stress index into the emergency category for a prolonged period, said Matt Dixon, agricultural meteorologist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
A low pressure system brought arctic air into the region with highs only in the single the single digits for much of the state.
Breezy west-northwest winds accompanied those temperatures and dropped wind chill values to 20 below zero.
Dixon said this was the coldest air that the state has had in several years.
"Lexington has not seen the mercury drop below zero since Jan. 22, 2011, and that same year, Paducah dropped to a low of minus 4," he said.
New weather reports indicate another polar vortex could be in the offing.
Livestock producers should make sure animals have adequate shelter, water, dry bedding and feed to make it through the next cold spell.
Pet owners should bring pets indoors. UK livestock specialists said animals have a higher requirement for energy in colder months, so producers should have high-quality forages and grains on hand to meet their needs.
The average horse, with a lower activity level, should eat between 1.5 and 2 percent of its body weight in feed per day to maintain its weight. UK equine specialist Bob Coleman said that feed requirement goes up in the winter, as the horse uses more calories to keep warm. He recommended providing extra hay and adding grain to the diet if forage supplies are not adequate.  
For mature horses at maintenance, a good quality legume-grass mixed hay should be adequate while young growing horses or broodmares in late gestation require a concentrate in their diets to meet the increased calorie needs due to the colder temperatures.
If an owner is adding concentrate for the first time, make the additions gradually to prevent digestive upsets.
In addition horses need shelter to provide protection from the wind and any precipitation that may come.
He said it's also important for horses to have access to clean, water to ensure that the horses will eat adequate amounts of feed and reduce the risk of impaction. All horse owners need to take extra time observing horses during cold snaps. Ones who are feeling the effects of the cold need extra attention.
Ambient temperatures can impact the amount of dry matter cattle eat, providing an opportunity to compensate for increased maintenance energy needs. Producers either need to increase their animals' feed intake or increase the energy density of the diet by feeding higher quality hay or adding more grain or fat to the grain mix, said UK beef specialist Jeff Lehmkuhler.