Winter Storm Challenges: Safeguard your livestock in the Polar Vortex with these expert tips!

Expert strategies for safeguarding livestock as so many parts of U.S. farm country deal with the incoming Polar Vortex.

As the first major snowstorms of the season approach, a polar vortex threatens the central and eastern half of the country with blizzard warnings, heavy snow, and strong winds. The impending deep freeze, combined with these extreme weather conditions, poses significant risks to livestock. Producers are advised to take immediate action to ensure the safety and well-being of their herds.

Polar Vortex Alerts and Recommendations

Producers are urged to move their livestock to a safe place promptly. With blizzard conditions expected, providing adequate shelter becomes crucial. Windbreaks and shelters should be inspected and reinforced to withstand the impending harsh weather. Additionally, ensuring that animals have access to sufficient feed for the cold conditions is essential.

The polar vortex is anticipated to bring temperatures significantly below-normal to the central U.S., with daytime temperatures plunging into single digits. In certain areas, wind chills are forecast to reach the -30s or even -40s. These extreme conditions necessitate proactive measures to minimize the impact on livestock.

Expert Insights from Dr. Dave Lalman

To shed light on the challenges and protective measures during winter storms, we spoke with Oklahoma State University Beef Cattle Specialist Dr. Dave Lalman.

“If you consider the major objective of winter feeding and management programs, it’s to get those cows in good body condition, especially in the spring calving program,” Dr. Lalman said. “The overall objective is to minimize cold stress and ensure animals have access to feed or forage.”

Dr. Lalman emphasizes the importance of minimizing the loss of body condition between the time cows have and the beginning of the breeding season. During extreme winter events like the polar vortex, providing access to feed and water becomes paramount.

Looking Ahead: Preventative Measures

As we anticipate another storm next week, producers should focus on preventative measures once they thaw out from the current one. While temperature control may be limited in extensive production systems, addressing the wind chill index is crucial.

“Ensuring animals have access to windbreaks significantly improves their ability to withstand cold stress,” Lalman said. “Proactive measures include putting out higher quality forage ahead of time and increasing supplementation rates. This preparation ensures animals have access to food and water 24/7, even during extreme weather events.”

Ensuring Worker Safety

Lalman emphasizes that worker safety is equally important. Producers should be prepared ahead of time to avoid getting stranded or facing difficulties accessing their animals during extreme weather events.


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