Cattle Producers Battle Cold Weather
Snow, ice and bone-chilling temperatures can take their toll, but for the most part, livestock are resistant to winter weather.
In the bitter cold, you can see the breath of cows. They're unbearable temperatures for most humans, but Springfield cattle farmer Paul Rice says cows can handle the extreme cold.
"They will do pretty well, despite what we feel. Mother nature has a way of keeping them going. Just like other wildlife that can live in the outdoors," Rice said.
Rice has 25 head of beef cattle. He says the animals tend to stay close to the barn when it's this cold.
"They don't go out into the field too much. They stay close to the round bale feeder and they're always right there ready to eat when it's time to feed grain," Rice said.
Since the cattle use extra energy in the winter to keep warm, they eat more than usual.
"I'll double up on their energy intake to give them plenty of energy to keep body warmth," Rice said.
Plus, Rice has to make sure the cattle's water doesn't freeze.
"I have heated water fountains that are automatically run by thermostats," Rice said.
No matter how low the temperature dips, when a cow is ready to give birth, she's ready.
"Even on the coldest day, I did have a newborn calf which calved a bit early for me, but the calf was fairly cold to get started, but we warmed it up in the barn with heat and the calf is back with the mom and doing well," Rice said.
An even bigger challenge to cattle in winter is ice.
"Ice in itself would be very detrimental, because cattle have trouble maintaining their balance. So ice can be very dangerous," said Rice.
Since Rice has raised livestock most of his life, braving the elements to tend to the animals is something he's used to.
"I have a good understanding of working with them, and sometimes the summer heat can be as difficult as the cold winter, but it's just a matter of managing and working with your cattle," Rice said.
Now when it comes to pigs, they don't handle the cold temperatures as well as cattle.
Experts say these days pigs are leaner and have less fat, so some farmers keep them in heated buildings. But they also can bear the cold by burrowing in straw and piling on one another.