Much of the U.S. has experienced some unusual and aggressive weather in the past week. At my family’s ranch we got about 5 inches of snow, followed by freezing temperatures. It has been a few years since temperatures have dipped down around zero!
When it gets that cold, it can be hard on everything – people, animals, vehicles, equipment, etc. Drastic changes in weather and barometric pressure can also mean more baby animals may be born. Sure enough, my Mom’s ewes started lambing again.
To ensure both mamas and babies remain healthy and warm during these extreme temperatures we do several things. First, the sheep shed receives fresh straw regularly to give all of the ewes and lambs a dry, warm place to lay.
Next, when a ewe starts lambing she is given a separate pen with plenty of straw and a heat lamp for the lambs. In this pen she also receives hay and water regularly to ensure she is producing enough milk for her lamb(s). In these pens we can also keep a close eye on them to make sure everyone is healthy.
The ewe and lamb(s) will stay in these pens until the lamb(s) are strong and healthy enough to be able to handle the elements or until the weather becomes a little more baby animal friendly. The ewe will also put off heat with her thick wool coat.
During extreme cold weather events, if animals do not receive enough energy from their feed they can loose body condition, lactation may decrease, and they may struggle to stay warm and be comfortable. We ensure that all of the animals in our care continue to have access to plenty of fresh clean water, but also plenty (and extra) of feed.
Luckily this extreme cold spell only lasted about 3 days, and our morning temperatures for now are back in the low 20s. Despite the increase in the morning temperature, the care of the animals remains a top priority for us and other livestock ranchers and farmers around the country.
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