Last week temperatures in Indiana dropped to near record lows, what some are calling a "polar vortex," though not all want to label it that. But it really doesn't matter what it was. It was darn cold!
What is the saying? If you don't like the weather in Indiana wait a few minutes and it will change? This week the weather forecast is predicting one day with a high of 45 degrees – that is more than a 50 degree swing in fewer than 7 days. That drastic change in weather is hard on livestock.
Caring for livestock in extreme conditions is always more work than on a regular day. But once the temperatures warm up there are still things to watch for in your livestock besides the daily feeding.
Signs of frostbite on animals should already be visible. Areas most likely to be injured include the ears, tail, teats, scrotum and distal parts of the limbs, especially the hooves. Prevention is the key but even under the best circumstances, frostbite happens and needs to be watched. Risks include infection to the affected area, treatable with antibiotics.
The extreme swing in temperatures can also have adverse effects on the respiratory systems of livestock. Even in confinement barns this can become an issue. Watch and listen for coughing, wheezing and runny noses – they are all signs of possible respiratory disease. Animals not behaving normally, such as not being as aggressive at feeding time or being standoffish, need closer observation.
After general observation, checking for elevated temperatures is another good diagnostic tool. Finally a call to your veterinarian should be made in a timely manner. Waiting too long makes their job harder and increases the chances of a more severe illness.
Knowing when veterinary intervention is necessary is an essential component of good stockmanship.