NORMAN — Editor’s note: This is the second of two columns on winterizing the farm or ranch. Previously: Machinery.
The beauty of farm equipment is that most of it is made of durable materials to withstand harsh environmental conditions. Most of it can be prepped, parked, and left for many weeks or months.
Unfortunately, livestock cannot be simply parked in the shed only to de-tarp the following spring. While maintaining the life of their equipment is vitally important, Ag producers also need to prepare their animals for winter.
Keeping animals safe, warm, watered and well-fed during the winter is essential to their health and well-being.
Many people would associate hot weather with keeping fresh water out for animals. However, when the mercury drops below freezing, frozen water tanks and ponds become as much of a critical element as they did in the heat of summer.
Breaking ice is no fun, having done my fair share, but it is a must.
Also, feeding animals regularly and providing good quality hay or winter pasture is important to animals maintaining body condition and energy to stay warm. Meeting the nutritional needs of livestock is very important, especially during winter months.
It is important to monitor the body condition of livestock throughout the winter months. Feed your animals regularly and keep in mind, animals exposed to harsh weather may require extra calories.
Always think “North” when thinking about livestock warmth. Most of our winter storms bring with them exceptional north winds. This is why it is important to provide livestock with shelterbelts of evergreen trees or by making sure pens are located in areas where animals will be protected from harsh winds.
Also, when winter hits, make sure pens are cleaned or designed in a way they will drain properly. Adding a solid wall to the pen, especially if newborn calves are inside and there isn't one already, provides an excellent windbreak.
Round bales of hay or barns and other structures also aid in blocking those strong, winter winds. Although snow might be a welcome sign to drought-stricken areas, it is still something that must be considered when managing penned livestock.
Always, shovel, scrape or plow snow away from pens and never allow build up.
Oklahoma winters pale in comparison to some of our Northern neighbors, but occasionally we will have severe weather come our way.
Proper planning in the face of a winter weather event can really help an Ag operation run smoothly.
Heath Herje is an agriculture educator for Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cleveland County. He also writes on wildlife issues. He can be reached at 405-321-4774.