'They're bred for this': Sask. livestock withstanding extreme cold
YORKTON -- Despite extreme cold with wind chills dropping below -45 degrees in many areas of southern Saskatchewan, livestock are able to weather the freezing conditions.
For farmers and ranchers, the safety of their animals is always in the forefront of their minds, and even more so in the frigid temperatures, but Ituna rancher Adrienne Ivey said it is important for people to understand livestock in Saskatchewan are “bred for this kind of weather.”
“If you brought some cattle up from Texas, they would not fare well this week, but ours are pretty used to it,” said Ivey.
“It is actually shocking how little it fazes them and they really don’t mind the cold weather, as long as they’re being taken care of.”.
Ivey said she focuses on two methods to keep livestock warm: providing shelter from the wind and ensuring the animals are appropriately fed.
"It takes a lot of energy to keep themselves warm right now. We need to make sure we're feeding them so they can maintain that high-energy environment," she explained.
While east central Saskatchewan has trees to form a natural place for cattle to hide from the wind, many farms will build a wind fence to protect the animals.
Dr. Zachary Johnson, a veterinarian at the Melville Veterinary Clinic, also emphasized the importance of having a place for these animals to get out of the wind, which is where the real danger is.
"You may not see it all the time but often times it is there,” said Johnson of the wind-blockers, whether natural or made. “These producers care a lot about these animals, they do their best to look after them."
Aside from food and shelter water, is always important, but below freezing temperatures bring another challenge for farmers.
Josef Buttigieg of Fenek Farms said the secret is water bowl de-icers.
“It’s basically an element that sits in the water bowl, and it heats it up to about four degrees centigrade, which is just above freezing point, but it’s good enough. The animals will drink it just like an ice cold glass of water so that’s a big one," explained Bittigieg.
While putting their animal’s safety is in the forefront, farmers also make sure to keep themselves out of the elements.
"Honestly, it is something we worry more about than our cattle,” said Ivey. “They are bred for this, we are not.”
“They have a very thick hide and a really good hair coat. Naked, I don’t think any of us would last very long out in this weather.”
Ivey said frostbite on the cheeks is common for farmers and this is the only time of the year when she is jealous of her husband’s beard.
She said farmers bundle up and cover any pieces of exposed skin before heading out on a freezing day. They also plan to have a place to warm up, whether it be the tractor, feeding the cattle or in the heated shop.
Buttigieg does the same, he wears a balaclava, four layers of shorts and jackets, and several layers of pants.