By Chris Kick and Catie Noyes
KIDRON, Ohio — The cold that blasted Ohio and Pennsylvania farmers and also the East Coast since Christmas, is making for a challenging couple weeks.
Animals and farmers alike are faced with single-digit temperatures, and only recently has there been any sign of improvement. The National Weather Service Forecast predicts highs near 30 on Saturday, with lows of 15 or higher.
Business as usual
The cold weather did not stop the farmers at Kidron Auction Jan. 4, though many said the conditions made their work more difficult and time consuming.
John Sprunger, auction manager, expected about 80-90 loads for the weekly hay and straw sale — down a little because of the weather, but not by much.
Consigners kept warm by staying in their trucks as much as possible, and donning multiple layers of overalls and Carhartts.
Ken Stockmeister, of Attica, Ohio, brought two loads of straw to sell. He said the key when working in the cold is to move fast, and get back indoors.
“Try to do it as quick as possible and get back in where there’s heat,” he said. “When you’re out there in the open, you try to have a vehicle running so you can hop in every now and then, if you have to.”
Mike Cramer, a hay and cattle producer from New Washington, Ohio, brought a load of first-cutting timothy hay that he figured would probably sell as horse feed. He feeds out Angus and Holstein cattle and said this time of year, the cattle have bigger appetites.
“Feedwise, they’ll consume more, so you’re checking the feeders more often,” he said. “They’re eating more to stay warm.”
On the farm
Jodi McDonnell and her husband, Tom, of Lakeville, Ohio, brought a load of open dairy heifers to sell. She said they’ve been keeping up, but everything takes longer in this weather.
“We’ve definitely been fighting with frozen waterers,” she said. “The heating elements in them aren’t even keeping them thawed out. It takes about three hours longer to do stuff than what it should. It’s definitely made it a chore.”
The chores are taking longer at Lahmers Farm in Ashland County, as well, where Christy Hulse milks 130 cows.
Hulse said water troughs get checked two to three times a day and animals need to be closely monitored for pneumonia and other health issues.
“When it’s this cold out, you can’t vaccinate animals,” she said. “The other day I took my bottle and syringe out and it instantly froze. You can’t do anything.”
Temperatures in Ashland, Ohio, were in the teens Jan. 3, with wind chills making it feel much colder. Temperatures are expected to drop to the single digits by the end of the week, according to AccuWeather, with lows dropping below zero.
“We worry a lot about frostbite on udders, so we switched to a powder teat dip,” she said.
A closer eye is kept on pre-fresh cows and newborns and calf hutches are bedded down with extra straw and calf blankets are put on.
When the temperatures drop to extreme cold, Hulse said they try to avoid doing extra work out in the elements if they can. But avoiding the weather on a farm can be a bit of challenge, so they layer up.
Hulse said they take extra precautions when moving animals from barn to barn to make sure cows and people don’t slip on the ice.
And cleaning the barns can be a little more challenging, as the manure tends to freeze.
“It just makes everything a bit more difficult and we just have to wait until it warms up a bit,” she said.
Keep animals warm
The University of Kentucky is reminding farmers to take care of their livestock, and themselves.
“We want to remind livestock producers to take proper precautions to keep their animals safe during periods of cold stress,” said Jeff Lehmkuhler, UK livestock specialist. “Don’t forget to keep yourself warm while caring for your animals avoid getting frostbite, especially when working on waterers to keep the water flowing.”
Livestock producers should make sure animals have adequate shelter, water, dry bedding and feed to make it through this cold spell. Pet owners should bring pets indoors.
Animals have a higher requirement for energy in the colder months, so producers should have high-quality forages and grains on hand to meet their needs.
Make sure there is plenty of clean water, and be wary of allowing livestock near frozen ponds and streams.
“There’s always a risk for animals falling through the ice, as they search for water sources and end up walking out onto ice-covered ponds,” Lehmkuhler said.