Safety and care in the bitter cold

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Working in these extremely cold temperatures is not easy.  Please do your best to work safely as you care for your animals.  Here are a few reminders from your Vita Plus team for dealing with harsh winter conditions on the farm:

For your team

  1. You can’t take care of your farm if you’re sick or injured.  Thus, your top priority needs to be to work safely in harsh conditions.  Slow down and take on only those tasks that are absolutely necessary right now.
  2. Avoid slips and falls.  Make sure you have proper footwear that provides good traction with anti-slip bottoms.  Take smalls steps to maintain your balance when walking across slippery surfaces.  If you begin to fall, try to twist your body and roll backward to avoid injury to the face.
  3. Prevent frostbite.  It only takes one minute for exposed skin to freeze when temperatures hit -20 degrees F and the wind is blowing at 5 miles per hour.  If the wind is blowing at 20 mph, skin can freeze at 10 degrees F.  Protect your hands, feet, nose, and ears by bundling in warm, layered, and loose-fitting clothes.  Use heat packets in gloves, vests, boots and hats.  Redness or pain in the skin is the first sign of frostbite.  If you experience this, move inside immediately.
  4. Prevent hypothermia.  Get inside immediately if you experience uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movement, fatigue or confused behavior.  Seek medical attention if these symptoms don’t go away.

Around the farm

  1. Meet animals’ energy requirements.  In extreme cold, you might see dry matter intakes drop.  Work with your nutritionist to maintain the energy and protein density.
  2. Check your water heaters.  Regardless of the weather, animals still need water.  However, no one wants to deal with frozen pipes.  Regularly check that everything is working and make sure thermostats are in good condition too.  It is possible for a thermostat to go out and water may get too hot even in the extreme cold.
  3. Bed well.  For animals of all ages, make sure you have a good, warm layer of bedding to help them maintain proper body temperatures.
  4. Work safely in bunkers.  Watch out for chunks of ice or frozen forages at the face of your bunkers.  Never be in a position where these chunks could fall and injure you.  If you need to work on top of a bunker, be aware that plastic covers are especially slippery in cold, snow and windy conditions.  Move slowly to avoid falls and don’t work alone in these areas.
  5. Get rid of the ice.  Slippery ground is dangerous ground.  Do your best to break up the ice or apply salt.  And remember to look up as well.  Safely knock down icicles that have formed along roof lines.  Also beware of accumulating snow that might slide from the roof.  This can not only scare cattle, but also result in serious injury if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  6. Plan ahead.  Every task seems to take longer when the temperatures drop.  Plan accordingly.  When you know a cold front is moving in, consider which tasks you can perform ahead of time or hold off for a few days.

With your calves

  1. Increase calories.  Add an extra feeding, add a fat supplement or increase the total solids.  This is especially important for calves less than three weeks old.
  2. Consider covering the front of the hutch with some sort of door.  Protect young animals from extreme wind chills.
  3. Use lots of bedding.  Make sure calves have the ability to nest deeply in the bedding.
  4. Use calf jackets.  You might even consider doubling the jackets on your youngest calves.
  5. Hold off on weaning and moving.  Save these activities for milder days.
  6. Limit stressful activities.  This holds true for your calves and your employees.
  7. Be safe!  Take care of yourself and your team.


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