Preparing for the next winter storm: Taking inventory of livestock facilities

As winter weather continues, livestock producers need to be prepared for the next winter storm. Taking inventory of supplies and facilities relating to housing, ventilation, feed and water can help keep livestock healthy and decrease owner stress.

Although the Midwest has already endured an extremely harsh winter, it’s not over yet. Livestock owners need to take time to make sure they are prepared for whatever storm may come next.  According to Michigan State University Extension, it is important to take inventory of supplies and facilities.  When taking inventory, there are a few specific areas to keep in mind.

  • Housing
  • Ventilation
  • Feed and water

Where animals are housed is one of the most important areas to inventory.  Whether working with beef, sheep or swine make sure that you have enough bedding on hand to bed for the next few months.  Additionally, be prepared for weather changes and have enough on hand to have the opportunity to add more bedding if temperatures reach extremes again.  It is also important for the safety of caretakers and livestock that barns be cleaned to the best of your available resources as well as buildings inspected for leaky roofs, faulty electrical and frozen pipes.

In addition to bedding and basic housing needs, ventilation is also a common concern in the winter weather.  In most cases, buildings are tightened up to keep the facility warmer.  However, make sure that there is proper airflow through the building so that livestock are able to stay healthy when they are exposed to the winter elements.  If the facility is 100 percent enclosed, like many swine operations, make sure there is a steady exchange of air to help keep livestock healthy and decrease the buildup of ammonia.

Finally, feed and water are essential to have on hand.  Whether mixing your own rations on farm or purchasing feed, make sure to have excess on hand before severe weather hits.  If feed delivery vehicles will need to come to the operation, try to have the driveways plowed and deiced to the best of your resources.  Because water is the most essential nutrient, having fresh, clean available water is essential.  Since water heaters and automatic wateriers tend to act up after power outages and in extreme temperatures, this becomes an important task.  Check all devices to make sure that the unit and the electrical powering of the unit is in good working order.  If needed, replace materials as needed to avoid frozen tanks and water pipes. 

When inventorying your facility and available resources, also pay attention to other items like feeders and electric fence insulators that may have cracked in the cold weather.  Try to be preventative by fixing or replacing something on a forty degree day to decrease your stress level in extreme weather conditions.

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