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Why Test Forage Quality?

For nearly four decades scientists have been refining their ability to test forage quality. This has been done in an effort to improve animal nutrition and consequently animal production. Analytical procedures that previously required a week, or more, to complete can now be done in less than 10 minutes and with more accuracy than before. As the ability to analyze forages has improved, the understanding of how to use the test results to improve animal efficiency and performance has also improved. Unfortunately though, forage quality testing is a valuable management tool that many livestock producers still do not utilize.

Greater net profit is the bottom line for why livestock producers need to know the quality of the forages they are feeding! Not knowing the exact quality of the forage being fed is a two-edged sword that can cut into profits either way it swings. A dairy producer who guesses that the crude protein (CP) content of the haylage is 2% units lower and corn silage is 1% unit lower will be feeding more supplemental protein than is necessary. This extra CP to the ration will add $0.09/cow/day in feed costs. With a herd of 100 cows, this is equivalent to $9.00/day. It would take just a little over 3 days of not knowing the quality of the forages and feeding extra protein, as in this example, to pay for the cost of quality analyses (forage quality testing usually costs less than $15.00/sample).

The other edge of this two-edged sword of not knowing forage quality, is over estimating forage quality. Guessing that forage crude protein is greater than what it actually is resultes in adding insufficient supplemental protein to the ration and saving feed costs. Unfortunately, the cows are being “short changed” on CP which could have a negative impact on milk production, especially in early lactation.

It is also important to note that guessing at fiber and mineral content will also have enormous economical impact. For example, the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) content of forages helps determine how much of the forage an animal will consume. Guessing too high or too low can have tremendous implication on intake, animal performance, and health. Knowing the quality of the forage being fed to animals not only saves or makes more money it also allows managers to provide better animal nutrition which will result in greater animal production and improved animal efficiency (lb milk or weight gain per pound of feed consumed).

Knowing the quality of forages when selling or buying them has also proven to be economically smart. At Pennsylvania hay auctions, where the quality of the hay is analyzed, and the results posted on each load prior to the auction confirms the economic value of knowing hay quality. At these auctions, each percentage unit increase in crude protein resulted in $8.00 more per ton. Selling 10 ton of 20% CP hay as 18% CP hay because the quality was not tested will cost the seller about $160! On the other hand, buying 10 ton 18% CP hay as 20% CP hay cost the buyer $160! A similar relationship between quality and price did not occur at hay auctions when the quality of the hay was unknown. Establishing a “fair” price for hay, if you are buying or selling, involves both parties knowing the quality of the hay.

Spring Pasture Walk

Spring Pasture Walk

What: Pasture Walk

Mark your Calendar and call (302) 831-2506 to register by Friday, May 10!!

When: Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Where: Whitehead Cattle Company

1303 Dexter Corner Rd, Townsend, DE 19734

Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Credits: Nutrient Management (0.75) Pesticide credit(1.0)

Come and see how Whitehead Cattle Company uses pasture to effectively feed their beef herd.  Learn how to identify weeds and how to control them in a pasture setting. In addition, learn about soil health and how healthy soil is the key to making farms more productive, profitable and resilient—and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  Learn how to take a hay sample and visually evaluate hay.  The workshop will also feature a talk on Pesticide safety – responsible decision-making and actions to protect pesticide users, public health, plant and animal health, and the environment

The meeting is free and everyone interested in attending is welcome.  If you have special needs in accessing this program, please call the office two weeks in advance.

To register or request more information, please call our office at (302)831-2506.

Thank you and see you there.  Dan Severson

Welcome and Introductions 6:00-6:05

Dan Severson, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Tour of Pastures and Pasture Management 6:05-6:20

George and Lynda Whitehead, Whitehead Cattle Company

Weed Identification and Control in Pastures 6:20-6:50

Quintin Johnson, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Pesticide Safety 6:50-7:15

Dr. Kerry Richards, University of Delaware Pesticide Safety Education Program

 

Soil Health 7:15-7:40

Jayme Arthurs, NRCS Research Conservationist

Proper Hay Sampling and How to Visually Evaluate Hay 7:40-7:55

Dan Severson, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Wrap up and Evaluations 7:55-8:00

Dan Severson, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Spring Pasture Walk

What: Pasture Walk

Mark your Calendar and call (302) 831-2506 to register by Friday, May 10!!

When: Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Where: Whitehead Cattle Company

1303 Dexter Corner Rd, Townsend, DE 19734

Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Credits: Nutrient Management (0.75) Pesticide credit(1.0)

Come and see how Whitehead Cattle Company uses pasture to effectively feed their beef herd.  Learn how to identify weeds and how to control them in a pasture setting. In addition, learn about soil health and how healthy soil is the key to making farms more productive, profitable and resilient—and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  Learn how to take a hay sample and visually evaluate hay.  The workshop will also feature a talk on Pesticide safety – responsible decision-making and actions to protect pesticide users, public health, plant and animal health, and the environment

The meeting is free and everyone interested in attending is welcome.  If you have special needs in accessing this program, please call the office two weeks in advance.

To register or request more information, please call our office at (302)831-2506.

Thank you and see you there.  Dan Severson

Welcome and Introductions 6:00-6:05

Dan Severson, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Tour of Pastures and Pasture Management 6:05-6:20

George and Lynda Whitehead, Whitehead Cattle Company

Weed Identification and Control in Pastures 6:20-6:50

Quintin Johnson, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Pesticide Safety 6:50-7:15

Dr. Kerry Richards, University of Delaware Pesticide Safety Education Program

 

Soil Health 7:15-7:40

Jayme Arthurs, NRCS Research Conservationist

Proper Hay Sampling and How to Visually Evaluate Hay 7:40-7:55

Dan Severson, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Wrap up and Evaluations 7:55-8:00

Dan Severson, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Use Science to Increase Forage Yield

By: Gary Bates, Professor and Director, University of Tennessee Beef and Forage Center

Everyone wants to increase yield.  Usually it means providing more of some type of input.  Maybe more fertilizer, or irrigation, or some other thing that will make plants grow at a faster rate.  But there is a simple way to make our pastures grow faster and produce greater yield.  It involves simply understanding and manipulating a simple principle of plant physiology.  That principle is that plants grow at the fastest rate when they have plenty of leaves to capture sunlight, and the leaves are relatively young so they are very efficient at the photosynthetic process.

Figure 1 illustrates the three phases of plant growth.  In phase 1, the plant doesn’t have much leaf area to capture sunlight.  In order to grow leaves, it has to take stored energy from the roots and crown of the plant for the growth.  It then moves into phase 2, when the plant has plenty of young, efficient leaves.  During this phase, the plant produces plenty of energy for growth, as well as replace the stored energy used during phase 1.  As the plant continues to grow, the leaves get older and less efficient at photosynthesis.  The plant also produces a seedhead, which means it is trying to produce seed instead of leaves.  This results in a decrease in the growth rate of the plant.


Figure 1. Three phases of plant growth

A simple way to increase the yield of a pasture is to concentrate on keeping your grasses in the phase 2 of plant growth.  That means to make sure you leave enough leaf area so the plants can capture plenty of sunlight.  But don’t let the plants go to a reproductive state, meaning they are producing seedheads.  Staying in phase 2 will improve yield, because that is the phase where the growth rate is the highest.

How do you accomplish that?  You have to have some type of rotational grazing program, where you control where the animals graze and how long they stay in the paddock.  If you find that the forage growth is getting ahead of you in the spring, then cut hay from some of the fields.  If you find forage growth is getting slow during the summer, you can do a better job preventing overgrazing.

There is no need to make rotational grazing extremely complicated.  The principle is controlling plant growth through where the animals graze.  This will ultimately improve yield, plant persistence, and the production of forage and beef on your farm.

USDA updates scrapie regulations, standards

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) is updating its scrapie regulations and program standards. These updates include several major changes, which are needed to continue the fight to eradicate scrapie from U.S. sheep flocks and goat herds. Scrapie is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) disease that affects the central nervous system in sheep and goats, and is eventually fatal.

The changes APHIS is making today to update the program are supported by the sheep and goat industry and incorporate the latest science to provide APHIS with increased flexibility as we work together with producers to get rid of this disease.

Scientific studies show that sheep with certain genotypes are resistant to or less susceptible to classical scrapie and are unlikely to get the disease. Because of this, APHIS is changing the definition of a scrapie high-risk animal so that it no longer includes most genetically-resistant and genetically less susceptible sheep. These animals pose a minimal risk of developing or transmitting scrapie, and by no longer considering them high-risk, they will no longer need to be depopulated or permanently restricted to their home farm.

The updated regulations and program standards will give the agency’s epidemiologists and leadership more flexibility to determine flock designations and deal with scrapie types that pose a minimal risk of spreading, including Nor-98 like scrapie. It also allows APHIS to determine based on science that additional genotypes are resistant without going through rule making. This will allow science and experience to guide decision-making as we identify fewer and fewer cases and move toward eradication.

APHIS is also updating specific identification requirements for goats and certain recordkeeping requirements for sheep and goats, which will provide increased animal disease traceability. Traceability is provided for certain classes of sheep and goats by the scrapie program, but strengthening traceability, particularly for goats, is important. This rule will bring goat identification and record-keeping requirements up to the level of the sheep industry, improving slaughter surveillance. Official identification will now be required for goats 18 months of age or older and for all sexually-intact goats under 18 months of age moving for purposes other than slaughter or feeding for slaughter, with some exceptions. Both industries will see recordkeeping changes. Sheep and goats moving in slaughter channels will now be required to have an owner/shipper statement. This statement must include group/lot identification, unless the animals are individually identified with official tags.

APHIS proposed updates to the scrapie regulations and program standards in September 2015 and accepted comments for 90 days. APHIS carefully reviewed the comments and made adjustments to the rule and program standards to address the concerns raised.

This rule is on display in today’s Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2019-05430. It takes effect 30 days following publication in the Federal Register, with one exception. States will need to meet scrapie surveillance minimums to maintain their consistent-state status in the eradication program. If a state does not meet the sampling requirements at the end of FY 2019, it must provide APHIS with a plan within one year for coming into compliance and be in compliance within two years of the effective date of the final rule.

Researching varieties pays dividends

While it may still be winter, the time to start thinking about spring planting is now. A part of that thinking and planning process is choosing adapted and high-performance forage varieties.

In The Ohio State University (OSU) Ohio Beef Cattle Letter, OSU Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator Christine Gelley discusses what to keep in mind when selecting future forage genetics for your farm or ranch.

Know the difference

Let’s begin with a quick review about the differences between species, varieties, and cultivars.

In plant terms, a species is a plant that is distinctly different from other plants in features and characteristics, meaning that other plants of the same species will share similar characteristics. For example, think red clover versus ladino clover; both are clovers, but two distinctly different species.

A variety is a variation of a plant characteristic that still falls within the range of characteristics of a species. “Think of varieties as species variations that occur in nature without human interaction,” Gelley explains.

While varieties are naturally occurring, humans select for cultivars. These cultivars often bear a trade name that is marketed by the seed company. In spite of the difference between a variety and a cultivar, it remains a common practice for a cultivar to be referred to as a variety.

“By the time you are ready to shop for seed, have your species selected and a few potential cultivars on your list of acceptable choices,” Gelley advises.

Regional requirements

To narrow down your choices even further, look at results of regionally conducted forage variety tests. “If you are farming in Ohio and shopping based on variety performance trials conducted in Tennessee, you may end up unsatisfied with your results,” Gelley explains.

Pay attention to variables in the trial, including total rainfall, soil and air temperatures, soil type, fertilizer and pesticide applications, and the number of years evaluated. Trials that were conducted over the span of several years are typically more trustworthy.

Also consider who is conducting the trials. Many land-grant universities conduct forage trials and are unbiased. Performance trials by seed companies can be reliable, but keep in mind that they are trying to get you to buy their product instead of a competitor’s.

Know the supplier

Once you have a short list of varieties that will fit your farm and needs, shop with a reputable supplier. They should have clean facilities, knowledgeable staff, and good customer service.

“Contact the seed dealer with your cultivar list and have a conversation about what you are looking for and what they can offer,” Gelley recommends. She also advises looking at the seed tags and comparing production dates, germination rates, and the percentage of pure live seed.

“For your best chance at success, do your research before you shop, rather than settling for whatever is in stock at the local co-op,” Gelley says.

Keep records

After selecting, purchasing, and planting your cultivar, keep note of observations you make throughout the year. This includes seeding date, planting rate and depth, weather conditions, germination success or failure, weed pressure, and animal preference.

Perform your own experiment

“If you can’t decide between one cultivar and another, get more than one and start your own on-farm research project,” Gelley suggests.

Plant the cultivars in the same location under similar conditions. As you go through their production cycle, apply the same inputs and harvest the same way all while taking notes and making observations. The results may surprise you.


Foot-and-Mouth Disease Found on South Korean Dairy Forces Quarantine

A health officer checks a cattle in a farm in Gimje as a preventive measure against foot-and-mouth disease after South Korea on Monday confirmed a case of food-and-mouth at a dairy farm elsewhere in the country, South Korea, February 6, 2017.

Areas of South Korea are on quarantine after a dairy farm was found to have foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in its cow herd.

The outbreak was identified on a 120 cow dairy near the city of Anseong, which is 67.6 km (42 miles) from the capitol city of Seoul. According to a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs released on Jan. 28, this is first FMD outbreak identified in the country since March of last year.

Cows from the farm are being culled and to help decrease the likelihood of the disease spreading movement of livestock, including cattle and pigs, is prohibited in certain areas of the country. These regions include Gyeonggi, Chungnam, Chungbuk, Daejeon and Sejong. The halt on movement of livestock will be conducted for at least a 24 hour period ending on Jan. 29 at 8:30 pm in South Korea.

The prohibition also limits movement for livestock-related workers and vehicles. Workers and vehicles are to remain at the farm or facility.

Access and movement from the following livestock-related workplaces is limited during that time, according to the Ministry:

  • Slaughterhouses
  • Feed mills
  • Collecting yards
  • Feed dumps
  • Feed dealers
  • Manure disposal yards
  • Communal composting yards
  • Livestock manure public treatment facilities
  • Joint recycling facilities
  • Livestock transportation companies
  • Livestock related service companies
  • Livestock consulting companies
  • Compost manufacturers
  • Veterinary drugs and livestock equipment suppliers

If livestock, workers vehicles or goods are moving during the time of the announcement they are to be moved to a safe place approved by the Director of the Livestock and Livestock Bureau of the city or province.

Violations are subject to a fine of 10 million won ($8,937 USD) or less, or could result in a punishment of one year in prison.

Other Recent Outbreaks and U.S. Status

South Korea has had other outbreaks in the past few years, including a FMD outbreak on a hog farm in March of 2018. A similar case on two dairies in 2017 resulted in South Korea vaccinating all cattle in the country for FMD.

FMD is classified as a “severe, highly contagious viral disease” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The disease causes fever and blisters on the tongue and lips, in and around the mouth, on the mammary glands, and around the hooves. FMD is seen as being a major economic hindrance to livestock production because of its ability to spread quickly. The disease was eradicated from the U.S. in 1929.

In the U.S., programs have been put in place to help secure various segments of the livestock industry. The Secure Milk Supply Plan (SMS) for Continuity of Business has been implemented by some dairy farmers to bio-secure their farms.

Also, the 2018 Farm Bill contained funding for the National Animal Disease Preparedness Program and National Animal Vaccine Bank. The bill funds $300 million for programs like a FMD vaccine bank.

Be a Good Hay Shopper

When shopping for a new truck, you don’t buy just because the salesman says it’s a good deal. Most shoppers do their research, looking at body style, fuel mileage, towing capabilities, included options and a vehicle history. Shopping for hay should also be carefully researched because making the correct purchase can drastically affect your bottom line. Have you ever met a person that can tell you the value of a truck just by looking at the exterior? Or someone that can tell the quality of hay based on a physical evaluation alone? While a physical evaluation can help us determine several characteristics about the hay, it cannot tell us nutrient content or other potential problems, like nitrates. The only way to know the quality of the hay is by having a forage test done. Knowing the nutritional value of the hay not only helps determine if supplementation is needed, but also will save you money and hopefully avoid any headaches.

Nutrient/Energy Requirement

Knowing what quality of hay you need to purchase all begins with understanding the nutrient requirements for your livestock. Nutrient requirement is the amount of nutrient an animal needs to perform a specific task, or their energy requirement. This is determined by weight, sex, age, growth rate and stage of production. From this we can break down that animal into four nutrient priorities:

  1. Maintenance
  2. Growth
  3. Lactation
  4. Reproduction

The largest shift in nutritional requirement is the transition from pregnant to lactation. Animals fed differently from their nutritional requirements will either lose or gain excess weight. Something else to remember is that the energy requirement for livestock increases during the winter, 1% for every degree under 32°F. Your county extension agent can help you determine your livestock’s nutrient needs.

Forage Testing

A forage analysis is the only way to assess the quality of the hay. The quality of the forage is focused on the value of each pound versus the total of pounds consumed. There is a physical limit to how much livestock can consume. Digestibility is the ability of the livestock to extract the nutrients from the hay. The primary nutrient found in hay are protein, carbs, sugars, pectins and fiber. When purchasing hay, ask for the forage test results. If a forage test has not been performed on the hay, it something you can do yourself through your extension office. For more details on how to take a good hay sample refer to Ray Hicks’s article in this edition of the newsletter.

Reading the Results

After you receive your forage report, there are some numbers that you want to focus on. Always look at the dry matter levels, not as sampled. The dry matter level is best for comparing forages, ration balance and economic value. Most producers go straight for the protein content, but this is Crude Protein and based on nitrogen levels in the sample. So a sample that is high in nitrates can have a high Crude Protein. Protein is important, but many times is overemphasized. The Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN) is a measurement of digestible energy. This allows you to compare
forages of the same species and compare them to the needs of the livestock. The Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) predicts the energy base based on fiber quality and intake. RFQ allows for comparisons across forage species. We have also been able to link ranges of RFQ to meet the energy requirements for livestock at different stages. This does not mean that a RFQ at that range will automatically provide all the nutrients needed, but provides us with an approximation if the forage will provide a cost-efficient base.

Nitrates are also important to look at. Nitrates over 4,500 ppm need to be fed at restricted rates. As the nitrate levels increase, so does the restrictions on feed until 18,000 ppm when it is considered lethal.

Storage

Another factor that effects forage quality is storage. Hay bales should be stored to protect from rainfall and weathering. Loss from storage can range from 20%-45%. Before hay is stored it should be properly cured. Round bales should be allowed to dry to 15% moisture and square to 18%. Improper curing of hay can result in fires. The best way for hay to be stored is in a hay shed, but if bales have to be stored outside its best they are orientated north/south, the bales are dense and they are elevated. Net wrapping also distributes moisture better than bales wrapped in twine.

Buy by Weight

Finally yet importantly, consider the weight of a hay bale. Whether you are buying square bales or round, consider buying by weight instead of by bale. Humans are not good at estimating the weight of a bale and usually overestimate the weight. So if you can put some bales on a scale and get a good estimate of the lot weight, see if the producer will sale by weight. It will save you some money in the long run.

Summary

  1. Consider your livestock nutrient requirements
  2. Forage Test
  3. Read and understand results
  4. Compare your forage options
  5. How was the hay stored
  6. Buy by weight (if possible)

Prevent and Prepare For Barn Fires

Although you cannot completely eliminate the risk that there could be a fire in your barn, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk and be more prepared. ( PORK )

Have you ever considered what you would do if you had a barn fire? How would you protect your animals and all the other assets you have in your barn? What could you have done to prevent it? The thought of a fire is very scary. Although you cannot completely eliminate the risk that there could be a fire in your barn, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk and be more prepared.

Tips for reducing the risk of a barn fire

Contact your local fire department to have them do a “checkup” of your barn and offer more recommendations for your individual situation. The University of Kentucky’s “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” recommends the following steps in reducing your chances of having a barn fire.

  • No smoking! Bedding and hay can easily be ignited by a person smoking in or around the barn. Enforce a strict no smoking policy in your barn. Post signs inside and outside your barn.
  • Place a fire extinguisher next to each exit, utility box and at roughly 30-40-foot intervals in your barn. Inspect and recharge each extinguisher every year, and use a ABC (general purpose) extinguisher.
  • Clean off cobwebs and pick up loose bailer twine. By making sure your barn is clutter-free, you are helping eliminate ways for fire to spread.
  • Electrical devices need to be professionally installed and encased in conduit. Pay attention during winter months to water tank heaters and heated buckets—they continue to generate heat even if there is no water present, which can cause the plastic to melt and a fire to ignite bedding and hay. If you are using electrical cords, make sure that they are professional grade, inspected often and are not overloaded. Keep lights caged and only use lights that are designed for barn use.
  • If possible, keep hay and bedding stored away from a barn housing animals. If you only have one barn, like many of us, make sure hay has properly cured before storing it in the barn. Check the internal temperature of curing hay by poking a thermometer into the middle of the bale. If the temperature reaches 150 degrees, the hay should be monitored. If it reaches 175 degrees, contact the fire department.
  • Keep tractors, fuel, other petroleum products and machinery away from the barn. Clear any grass, hay, leaves or other combustible materials from equipment before storage.

Tips for being prepared in case there is a barn fire

Mentally prepare yourself so that you can act calmly and safely in the case of a fire. Remember that human safety is the top priority—ensure your own safety and the safety of others before taking care of animals. The University of Kentucky’s “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” recommends the following steps for preparing yourself and being ready if a fire does occur in your barn.

  • Identify and designate a safe place for your animals to go if you can get them out of the barn safely. This location should be away from the fire and allows fire crews enough room to do their jobs.
  • Handling equipment such as halters, leads, etc. should be quickly accessible. Consider the materials these items are made of. Remember that plastic and nylon will melt in heat.
  • Talk about the plan with members of your family and any employees you might have so they can also be prepared in an emergency.
  • Mark gates, pens or stalls with reflective tape or glow-in-the dark paint. This will make it easier to see where you are going in the dark.
  • If you are removing animals, start closest to the exit first and handle animals one at a time or by groups if they are herd animals. Always maintain control of the animals to help reduce their stress, which can prevent other injury risks.

If there is a fire, call 911 and get people out of the barn. Only get animals out if you can do so without risking human safety. Follow the directions from the fire department or 911 dispatcher.

No one ever wants to think about the risk of a fire, but it is best to be fully prepared so that you can react fast and appropriately.

Tips to Keeping Livestock Healthy During Winter Months

Most animals need some shelter during the winter months, however their natural winter coats allow them to endure cold temperatures. ( Drovers )

Winter has arrived in full force in Michigan. Cold temperatures can cause some challenges in our barns, but utilizing some easy techniques on your farm will help you manage your herd successfully during the winter months.

Water

Ensuring your herd has access to fresh, clean water is essential to their health. In the winter, battling frozen water buckets and tanks can be a challenge. By utilizing tank heaters, heated buckets or automatic waterers, water is kept ice-free and at a temperature the animal is comfortable drinking.

Products that utilize electricity, such as tank heaters and heated buckets, should be checked with a voltmeter to ensure there is no current running through the water. Any electrical current will deter animals from drinking from the water tank or bucket. By inserting one end of the voltmeter in the water tank and the other into the ground, you will get a reading that will indicate if there is a problem. Make sure to check this often.

The University of Wisconsin Extension has published a water consumption chart that outlines the amounts of water certain species will consume per day. Ensuring that your animal is consuming enough water each day is critical to their overall health and well-being.

Amount of water livestock will consumer per day
Species Water needs, gallons per day
Cattle 7-12
Goats 1-4
Hogs 6-8
Horses 8-12
Llamas 2-5
Poultry Up to 1
Rabbits Up to 1
Sheep 1-4

Housing

Most animals need some shelter during the winter months, however their natural winter coats allow them to endure cold temperatures. Providing shelter or wind breaks that can be easily accessed by animals is key. Humans oftentimes are prone to making the winter environment for their animals too warm, which is unhealthy for animals.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following factors to consider when evaluating the housing of your animals:

  • Air quality. Is there adequate ventilation to help dispel respiration gasses and manure odor? Depending on the type of barn you have, there are various ways the barn can be ventilated. Ridge vents are more prevalent in newer barns and are based on the premise that heat rises. Older barns may require opening doors or windows to allow for air circulation. Poorly ventilated spaces can cause irritation in the animals’ lungs and lead to respiratory infections such as pneumonia. If you notice condensation on walls or ceilings, that is a good indication your air isn’t ventilating enough for the number of animals occupying the space. You will need to adjust accordingly.
  • Dry bedding areas. Dry bedding provides insulation from the cold ground and helps decrease the amount of energy animals use to keep them warm. There are many options for bedding you can use; straw, wood shavings and with cattle in particular you can use corn stover or similar crop residues for cows and bulls.

Feed

Animals must maintain their energy reserves in order to endure cold temperatures. Before the weather gets cold, asses the body condition of each animal and adjust the nutrition they are receiving to adequately prepare them to thrive in winter conditions. It is critical to continue to assess body condition scores throughout the winter, as it may be necessary to increase the amounts of good quality feed and forages. Supplying adequate amounts of feed is essential in your herds well-being through the winter months.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu.