December 3, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

November 2003 weather was like a roller coaster ride due to near-record warmth and cold periods that gave livestock producers a taste of winter weather yet to come. It’s a good time for farmers to start thinking about preparing animals for colder weather.

Record highs were set at the beginning of the month, only to be met with short periods of below normal temperatures throughout the month.

“Even with all the temperature variations, November 2003 was the eighth warmest on record,” said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky agricultural meteorologist. “November was also the eleventh wettest in 109 years.”

Priddy said several rain events occurred in Kentucky, bringing thunderstorms and occasional flooding. The state even got its first taste of mixed snow and sleet in the later parts of the month.

“We had a little bit of everything in November,” he said. “It was a very unique month. When you look at the period of January through November, it was the seventh wettest period on record.”

Continuing temperature declines signal the time for winter livestock preparation. UK Extension Sheep Specialist Monty Chappell said animals have a much higher tolerance for cold than humans do. For example, the comfort range for cattle is 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Horses have a broader range of 10 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and hogs in confinement usually are fine unless there is a power outage and that requires auxiliary heat until power is restored.

The biggest thing for producers to remember is that animals need water or they won’t eat, and they need to eat to maintain energy and body condition. Animals have a higher requirement for energy in the colder months so producers should have high-quality grains and forages on hand to meet their needs.

“It’s always a good idea to have more than enough feed on hand in case the weather gets bad and prevents you from driving,” Chappell said. “Animals in isolated areas, away from the center of the operation, need to have about one-week’s worth of food available.”

Dry bedding also is important during cold periods. Animals who stay dry have a better chance of making it through cold, wet spells than those who can’t get dry due to wet bedding.

With proper management livestock should sail through the winter months without problems. Prevention and attentiveness in each situation are key elements to a successful winter for livestock.

Priddy’s 30-day outlook for Kentucky’s weather includes near-normal temperatures and precipitation, with a short bout of above-normal precipitation for Dec. 9 through 15.


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Tom Priddy 859-257-3000, 245