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Protecting livestock from frigid temperatures

For those who raise animals, keeping them warm is vital, especially during historically cold temperatures

Posted: Jan. 29, 2019 9:25 PM

MASON CITY, Iowa - By 5 p.m. Tuesday, the temperature outside near Mason City got to -11, and it felt much colder with the wind.

While these temperatures can mean frostbite on human skin, we set out to find how livestock producers are working against the bitter cold.

Every few hours, Eric Arthur checks on food, water and bedding for his cows and calves.

"The biggest thing is keeping them dry and keeping fresh bedding. They say when a cow lays down, if her legs and tummy can be covered in dry bedding, they will stay warm."

And baby calves are covered as well.

"We have an area for the baby calves to go in that has infrared heaters that shine in the pen. We have calves that have been born here the last 10-15 days, they're not quite as resilient as the aged mama cows are."

For Craig Benjegerdes' confined pigs, it's a bit of a different story.. He explains how urgent it is to set up curtains ahead of time on the outside to avoid drafts and have a balanced temperature inside.

"They pretty much have a thin layer of skin and little hairs, so they're kinda naked. So they want an even temperature in there, and if you get cold and hot and cold and hot, they can get some respiratory problems and then you have troubles. So you don't want to stress them out."

While adult pigs can huddle together as they have more body mass, little pigs are more susceptible to the cold. To make sure there is heat, there are propane tanks set up outside and forced air heat fans.

Both Benjegerdes and Arthur say that this cold snap will be their animals' ultimate test.

"For the past few years, this will be the coldest weather we've had. There may have been some colder ones, but nobody remembers that, they just remember what's having right now."

"They say that the next couple days will be generationally cold weather that the people of certain ages will never see it this cold. I'm a little nervous, it's definitely the coldest I've ever seen it."

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