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Spring Has Sprung—Are Your Livestock Ready?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
March 29, 2017        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Spring Has Sprung—Are Your Livestock Ready?
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (04/12/17) — Spring is officially here.  We’ve had some warm days lately, but we have also dipped below freezing some nights.  Spring brings some big changes to our environments, so what can we do to help transition livestock?  Each change in season presents its own unique challenges, and winter-to-spring brings some important aspects to be aware of.

A major marker of winter’s exit is snowmelt.  Central Minnesota has already lost its snow, but keep in mind that wet conditions caused by the snowmelt and recent rains are present.  Spring will bring wet conditions with it, and wet conditions can lead to all sorts of problems for livestock. 

Warm, moist environments are optimum for most bacteria.  Animals in these conditions are susceptible to a whole host of issues and diseases.  The single most important thing you can do is keep livestock clean and dry.  This may require adding extra bedding and changing bedding more often.  If you aren’t sure how much bedding to add or if it needs to be changed, try the kneel test.  Kneel down into the bedding.  If you stand up with wet knees that means your animals are likely getting more than wet knees.

Also consider where livestock are housed, like at the bottom of a slope.  Obviously buildings can’t be moved, but pens and paddocks could temporarily be relocated to prevent animals from standing in mud.  Extended periods of time standing in water, mud, or manure can lead to significant hoof issues such as foot rot. 

Another aspect to consider with housing is ventilation.  As temperatures increase, so should air exchange rates.  This is done to remove any excess heat.  Also look at general air quality.  Are your animals breathing heavy?  Are their noses runny?  You probably don’t have to worry about your cows having a ragweed allergy, but they should have fresh, clean air.  Tying back to what I said before about damp conditions, air exchange needs to increase if moisture and ammonia from wet and soiled bedding makes the space damp and smelly.  The easiest way to detect a problem is with your ears, eyes, and nose.  Do you hear animals coughing or breathing heavily?  Can you see rapid nose or chest movement?  Does it smell stale and dirty?  If you answer, “yes” to any of these questions, then you may need to look at some ventilation improvements. 

Spring is a busy time, and most time is dedicated to the fields, but don’t forget about your livestock!  Keeping them dry and comfortable is crucial to keeping them healthy and productive.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169