News-Sports.net - Dec 08,2010 - Kentucky is in the throes of an early season arctic blast that could cause problems for livestock operations.
“A deep, upper-level low-pressure system will linger over the northeastern United States through the next few days,” said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture meteorologist. “Winds during this time will be out of the northwest and will be gusty during the afternoon hours. Drier air will be filtering into the region tonight with dewpoints dropping into the teens to single digits.”
Priddy said a blast of arctic air will filter into the lower Ohio Valley this week and highs could only be in the 20s for most Kentucky locations. Combining these temperatures with the gusty winds will cause an extended period of livestock coldstress in the danger and emergency categories. Livestock producers should take precautions and try to understand how these conditions could impact their animals.
Low ambient temperatures can increase the energy requirements of horses as they compensate to maintain core body temperature. Horses may need additional food, especially if they are kept outside, said Laurie Lawrence, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture equine researcher and professor.
“Because a large change in the grain portion of the diet can increase the risk of digestive upset, horse owners should also focus first on increasing the amount and/or quality of the hay that is used,” she said. “In general, horses will obtain more calories from alfalfa or alfalfa-grass mix hay than from plain grass hay. If horses have already reached maximum hay consumption, then an increase in grain can be implemented. However, all changes to grain intake should be made gradually.”
According to Lawrence, regular body condition scoring is also recommended for horses. Heavy hair coats can often camouflage weight loss in horses, so it is important that horse owners check the amount of fat cover over the ribs and spine regularly, she said. If the boney structures start to feel more prominent, it is an indication the horse is losing weight and that the diet should be changed.
Lawrence offered another tip. “Sorting horses by age, body condition and nutrient requirements makes it easier to feed each group of horses appropriately. Horses are less efficient at digesting low quality hay than cattle, so it is very important to offer them good quality hay in adequate amounts. Under normal conditions adult horses will usually consume 20 to 25 pounds of good quality hay per 1,000 pounds of body weight each day. During cold weather this allocation should be increased by 30-50 percent, depending on the severity of the weather.
“The importance of making sure animals have adequate water cannot be understated,” she added. “When water availability decreases, food intake usually decreases as well. So if even if horses have plenty of food available they may not eat enough if their water source is frozen.”
According to Jeff Lehmkuhler, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture beef specialist, the lower critical temperature (LCT) value for cattle is the lowest temperature or windchill at