Iowa livestock farmers manage subzero temperatures

Wisconsin State Farmer
In this Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, photo, Teresa Kramer feeds milk to a calf in the heated calf nursery on the farm she and her husband own in Farley, Iowa. Livestock farmers in the tri-state area have spent the first days of the year grappling with bitter cold.

FARLEY, Iowa (AP) — Frigid temperatures are creating challenges for Iowa farmers who say animals can endure cold winter conditions but need extra attention to stay healthy and productive.

Iowa entered 2018 with subzero temperatures. The National Weather Service reported a Jan. 1 record temperature in Dubuque of 21 degrees below zero (-29 Celsius). Wind chills on the first two days of the year reached negative 30 degrees (-34 Celsius).

Dairy farmer Wayne Kramer told the Telegraph Herald that his livestock needs to be partially protected from the frigid conditions on his rural Farley farm. He said the cold weather can make cows uncomfortable and cut into productivity.

"They are just like humans in the sense that they move a little slower when it gets cold," said Kramer. "If they get too cold, they will eat less and drink less, and that can affect their milk production."

Kramer moves his cows indoors to be milked. He said it's important to dry the teats after milking because that part of the cow is susceptible to freezing.

Livestock farmer Craig Recker said he isn't as concerned with the low temperatures. He said the wind poses a threat to his cattle in New Vienna.

Recker said it's critical to give cattle adequate bedding. He uses corn stalk fodder, and makes sure it stays dry and doesn't freeze over.

"When they have good, deep bedding, it really helps them generate their own heat," Recker said.

Annette Eggers, manager of Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau, said severe winter conditions can be taxing on farmers.

"They are continuing on with their everyday chores, plus they are dealing with additional challenges like clearing snow or fixing frozen waterers," she said.

Eggers suggested wearing extra layers and taking brief breaks indoors to stay warm.