Farmers take livestock precautions in cold weather - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Farmers take livestock precautions in cold weather

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DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -- Frigid temperatures mean livestock farmers are taking extra precautions.

Dubuque County beef farmer Paul Vaassen said it boils down to three basic rules -- keep the animals well-fed, make sure they have water and that it doesn't freeze and make shelter available, especially for the young calves born in the fall.

As far as keeping warm, Vaassen said the cows have their own way of doing things.

"Usually, they look for shelter, but they'll stay around in groups, and when they do that, the warmth, the temperature's a lot better because of all the body heat that's generated by a group of cows," he said.

He has about 160 cows to watch over.

"In bitter temperatures, they really require more feed, more hay," he said. "During these kind of winter conditions, we give them silage, besides, so they need the energy in order to maintain good body strength and warmth of body."

That's because there's obviously no grass for grazing this time of year, although the upcoming grazing season is already looking good.

"We should be in pretty good shape this winter around here because we have a good snow cover, and that will prevent the ground from freezing very deep," Vaassen said.

He said snow acts as an insulator for both grass and crops.

Vaassen keeps the cows' water running with an electric coil beneath the water tray, which could be a problem if an ice storm knocks out the power.

"If it freezes, you hope the power comes back on, you thaw them out," Vaassen said.

He has about 85 pregnant cows, which are also a cause of extra concern with calving season coming in early spring.

"You need to maintain that body energy," Vaassen said, "so that the fetus will continue to grow and, when they calve, the cow and the calf will be in good condition."

As for feeling the cold, "this is Iowa," Vaassen said. "You adjust, and the cattle - as it gets colder - they adjust."

Cold winters and farming - Iowa knows how to do both.

Vaassen said it's more expensive to tend to dairy cows during the winter, rather than beef cows, since they have to be milked everyday and therefore need more shelter and warmth.

Due to this harvest season's weather, some farmers didn't get as much hay as they'd normally have for livestock. That means they'll either have to ration the hay throughout the winter or go out and buy more.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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