Nothing humane about animal agriculture: Reblog

If you follow my blog you know I talk about animal care in extreme temperatures. If you are new, welcome, and check out posts posts here, here, and here.

Today my friend Trent Loos, shares his thoughts on the humane aspect of animal care in these snowing/windy/freezing/over-all miserable environmental events we are currently experiencing in Nebraska.

If you think livestock farmers/ranchers treat their livestock inhumanely, I encourage you to read this.

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

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Cold Weather Animal Care

A large majority of the U.S. and Canada are experiencing extremely cold temperatures as a polar vortex comes in from the north (will a repeat of the 2014 winter be in store?)

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Extremely cold temperatures hit most of the U.S. and Canada. Source: accuweather.com

While many of us can get chilled to the bone, find “normal” day-to-day activities to be a challenge, and complain about escalating heating bills, let’s not forget about those who care for livestock on these days. The folks who have chosen to be livestock farmers and ranchers as their livelihood seldomly get a day off and they certainly can’t skip a day of livestock care just because it is too cold.

I have blogged about care for animals in cold weather before, and I think it is good to highlight these two blog posts again.

Caring for Livestock in Cold Temperatures – highlights some of the ways livestock farmers and ranchers try to make their animals more comfortable via shelter options and feed.

Cold Temperatures Cause Frozen Ears – this can be a real problem for newborn baby animals. Warning: super cute calves wearing ear muffs are included!

What questions do you have about animal care in cold weather? What are you doing to make sure your animals are the most comfortable they can be?

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– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

 

Cold temperatures cause frozen ears…

As you know most of the country has experienced a terribly cold winter for many days in a row. This is also the time of year when mama animals are also having their babies. When a baby animal is born it has come from a warm place and is wet, and it is up to the mama to get it dry and warm. The circulatory system of newborn babies is new, so blood flow to all of the extremities is still limited. Blood flow to the ends of ears and tails in new born babies may take up to five days to be at full circulation. With that being said, it is not uncommon for a baby animal too lose the tips of their ears or tips of their tails to frostbite.

Today I have a treat for you! My sister, Kellie Chichester, uses calf ear muffs. These are put on the calves when they are first born and they will keep them on for a couple of days, or until either the blood flow gets good and circulating or until the cold temperatures break. This is especially important for calves that will be marketed through a niche system and will need to be aesthetically pleasing. This pair was bought, but you could make your own if this interests you!

Sleeping calf with ear warmers
A sleeping calf with ear muffs.

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The calves wearing these can nurse and do everything as they normally would! Kellie adds, “The cows are actually curious about the ear muffs and tend to spend more time nudging and licking the calves. The muffs need to be checked regularly and an ear may need to be tucked back in on occasion.”

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A calf enjoying the ear muffs!

While these ear muffs certainly keep the ears warm and in-tact they are generally not used by the majority of livestock producers. Most calves are born in pastures or pens where they may not have much human contact or it is not feasible for all calves to be wearing these. Plus we hope that the days will start getting warmer, and ear muffs won’t be needed – by animal or human!!

What have you done to make these cold temperatures a little more comfortable?

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– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Caring for livestock in cold temperatures

As the majority of our county is enveloped in extremely cold temperatures, which are plummeting into many degrees BELOW zero, you may be wondering how ranchers and farmers care for their livestock.

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The temperature in Lincoln, Nebraska this morning.

As temperatures drop it is important to remember that not all livestock need or want to be indoors! Unlike us or even our pets, they have extremely thick hair and wool coats that are very warm (sometimes water resistant), enabling them to withstand cold temperatures. Additionally, it is usually not feasible to provide shelter for all the animals on a ranch or farm (some animals like pigs, poultry, or rabbits may need shelter), as that could be for hundreds of animals, and providing enough space for them all to lay down and clean bedding would be quite the task!

And animals are interesting, even if you provide them with shelter, they do not always go into it. It is like that saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”‘ you can provide shelter, but you can’t make livestock use it.

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Animal Barn – Many people believe this is how livestock animals are housed. But let me share more feasible alternatives with you.

WINDBREAKS

Have you ever seen a row of trees in a pasture? These are called windbreaks. Windbreaks vary from a single row of trees to multiple rows of various trees and shrubs. It may look random, but they are usually strategically placed to be in an area that blocks the winds and blowing snow. Pastured animals quickly learn that if they stand on the opposite side of the windbreak they will get a break from the weather! Additionally, farmers and ranchers will move livestock to more protected pastures (such as the one in the photo below) in the winter where they can be fed and have their offspring in the best possible location.

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Cows being fed near a windbreak

Windbreaks are also used to protect homes and other buildings from blowing winds, snow, and even dust.

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A home with a windbreak

Windbreaks do not always have to be in the form of trees and/or shrubs. They can also be wooden or metal fence/panels to provide a weather break for livestock.

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A permanent wooden windbreak
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A portable wooden windbreak
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A metal windbreak

Sometimes windbreaks may be just a roof and no sides, which offers a place to get out of wet weather, and also provides shade on hot days.

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An above-head windbreak
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A windscreen
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Portable shelter

BEDDING

Livestock may be provided straw, corn stalks, wood chips, or other types of bedding to lay on in the cold winter months. If animals are sheltered indoors, these are great and warm for just a couple of days until they become soiled with feces and urine, and need to be changed (which can be very labor intensive and expensive). If these are provided outdoors they may get wet and stomped into the ground, and fresh bedding would need to be provided as needed. If no bedding is provided, livestock will generally lay on any leftover forage feedstuffs they waste during the eating process.

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An example of cattle laying the hay they wasted

Livestock will most commonly be brought in from pasture and put on bedding when they are about to give birth. This helps the babies stay warm and dry and get off to a good start in life. When the babies have nursed and are strong, they will be moved back out to the pasture (which may be anywhere from one to four days – or more if needed).

FHR-11052-01047-743 - © - FLPA/Andrew Linscott
Lambs in straw
D - Just minutes before the dairy farm tour this calf was born_Tracy Behnken
A newborn calf on wood-chips from my friend Tracy

SHELTER

As I mentioned, it is usually not feasible to offer shelter to all livestock animals. But sometimes ranchers and farmers will make a shelter for just the babies to get out of the weather. This gives them a warm, dry place to go when the weather gets really bad. These structures are usually just small enough for the babies to go into, leaving the mamas outside, where they are more equipped to handle the colder temperatures.

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Calves enjoying a warm shelter

Remember, in the cold winter months livestock have very thick hair coats (that is why they looks so fuzzy) and wool pelts to keep them warm!

FEED AND WATER

When temperatures drop and it stays cold for long periods of time, or if rain or snow events occur, livestock may need to be given additional feed. Some sort of forage (hay) that was put up in the summer months with the intentions of being used during the winter months is an excellent option. When it is cold, livestock use more energy to keep and stay warm, if they cannot get enough feed during this time you may see them drop condition or become thinner. You may see ranchers and farmers feeding their livestock at least once a day, and maybe twice a day when weather gets really bad. During winter months the quality of the grass in a pasture is not very good, so additional hay during those times is important.

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Here is a picture of me feeding hay to some hungry cows

Livestock always need access to fresh, clean water – regardless of the time of year or weather conditions. In the winter this may mean that ranchers and farmers will need to break a lot of ice, deal with frozen pipes, or haul water. Livestock cannot get enough of their daily water requirements from just eating snow, and if forced to do so will become dehydrated.

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Chopping ice – The Pioneer Woman provides a great blog post on it

So on these very cold days, be thankful that the ranchers and farmers raising livestock for our consumption are such good stewards of their animals and the land. And know that the livestock in their care are being taken care of properly. Being outside all day, everyday in these elements is not for the faint of heart!

Disclaimer: I am not promoting a company or product, the photos used are meant to only provide an example or illustration of a specific event and provide an example.

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– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)