Producers grapple with effects of cold weather on livestock

By Charlene Tebbutt
April 20, 2018 - 9:55am

Producers in Saskatchewan are dealing with more work and higher costs as they struggle to keep livestock alive and warm following a long winter and very cold spring.

With calving season underway, newly-born animals are suffering from the low temperatures.

Dr. Shawn Haas with Lakeland Veterinary Services in North Battleford is a specialist in herd medicine and reproduction. He says he’s already had to treat, and in some instances euthanize, young calves, lambs, kids and foals that are suffering with frozen ears, feet and legs.

“Certainly we had a number of animals where amputation of limbs, in some instances some animals had to be put down, simply because they had more than one leg that was frozen … essentially anything that would have their babies outside,” Haas told farmnewsNOW. “It’s been a very challenging year for livestock producers.”

Haas says producers are also challenged this spring to find extra feed and bedding for livestock to keep them warm until the weather warms up. It’s still too cold to put them out to pasture, and there’s little grass to munch on. The lengthy cold has also affected adult animals, he added.

“The animals in general are more run down because they’ve had many more days of cold weather than are typical,” Haas added.

Rick Toney, board chair with the Saskatchewan Cattleman’s Association, says spring is harvest time for livestock producers and the lingering cold has hit many producers’ pocketbooks. Toney says producers across the border are also struggling due to drought, and are looking to Saskatchewan for extra feed, which is driving up prices.

"I know lots of people that are out there buying feed, and feed and they're paying upwards of $200 a tonne ... the whole industry has suffered from the length of this winter.”

“Normally, I would have mine out on grass by this time,” Toney said.

With a lot of work still ahead of them, Toney said producers have to be mindful of safety on the farm this spring as well. While higher costs and cold weather are challenging, Toney said producers must also be careful when dealing with stressed animals on the farm.

“You’re running without sleep,” Toney added.

“These cows, when it comes calving time become momma grizzlies, and it’s only Mother Nature that they want to look after those calves … I can’t run as fast as I used to and I’ve had a few cows put me on the run this spring.”

The weather is warming up, but Haas said there are still concerns for producers. Wet and muddy pastures can cause scours, or diarrhea, in young animals and Haas said it’s important to keep animals well-bedded. The effects of the lasting cold may show up later on as well, he added.

“Pregnancy rates may be lower in fall because of challenges in the spring,” Haas said.

“It’s kind of one more thing to look out for … this may not just be an issue for today. This may still be having an effect come fall.”


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On Twitter: @CharleneTebbutt

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