Livestock Need Proper Nutrition This Winter

— Written By Phil Rucker and last updated by
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If you have cattle, horses, sheep, goats or other livestock, winter is the time we must provide that extra nutrition to help them not only perform well, but stay warm and healthy. If you don’t have the proper nutrition, you get run down, your immune system is weak, you get sick more often and you just don’t feel like yourself. The same goes for our livestock friends. They need proper nutrition all the time and just a little more in the winter.

Throwing your livestock a bale of hay and then you go sit by the fire to relax is not usually proper management. If the hay is low quality and the weather is turning colder, your livestock will not receive the necessary nutrients and consume more hay than normal to try and meet their needs. The animals will not perform well under this scenario and valuable hay is wasted.

Have your hay analyzed to know what you are feeding and if it will meet the needs of your livestock. Know what your particular class of livestock need: nursing mothers need more protein and energy than pregnant livestock not nursing young. Growing and working animals also have high nutritional needs. Use this information as well as weather conditions to help you provide adequate amounts of quality feed for your livestock.

If you are going to provide supplemental feed to meet nutrient needs (protein tubs, by-product feeds grain, lick tanks, etc.) you need to know what products can be consumed by certain species and what products cannot. Cattle can eat a wide variety of grains, minerals, by-products and other feeds. Horses can consume a variety of feeds as well but are much more sensitive to molds, dust, high levels of certain minerals and some products like rumensin are highly toxic to horses. Copper is very toxic to sheep so care must be taken when feeding general supplements to sheep. To avoid feeding the wrong products, READ THE LABEL and make sure it is designed for or is safe for your particular animals or ask the feed sales person.

Feed hay or supplement in a manner so it is not wasted. If you go to the effort to make hay and or purchase feed, and then take the time to put it in front of your livestock, you want the animals to consume it and not waste that valuable resource. Look at you hay rings, racks, feed troughs and other feeding methods as ways to reduce potential waste. It’s always better to get more feed in the animals where it will do some good.

Remember to have your hay tested for nutrient content (Cooperative Extension can help with that). Feed adequate amounts for weather condition, stage of production and the particular species of animal you have. Read the label to avoid feeding potential toxic compounds to your livestock. Make sure you don’t waste that valuable resource when feeding.

Contact the Cooperative Extension Service, Yadkin County Center at 849-7908 for help on testing your hay, questions on feed requirements or basic information on feeding livestock. When your livestock are being fed properly, you can sit by the fire relaxing because you know your livestock are being well looked after.

Backyard Flock Winter Tips

Winter can be a very tough time for backyard poultry flocks. Cold temperatures, less sunlight, the need for increased nutrition and water consumption should be on your mind. To help your backyard buddies better tolerate the cold and possibly not drop off too much in egg production, see if some of these management practices might work in your situation. Add some supplemental light for some warmth and hens will potentially lay more with increased lighting. Don’t overcrowd the birds as this leads to stress and reduced production (even cannibalism). Provide proper ventilation for good air flow and reduce dust build up. Fresh air is good for us as well as your flock. Just make sure there are no major drafts that could chill the birds.

Provide proper and adequate nutrition for best performance and good health. Know the production stages of your birds and meet their nutrition needs accordingly. Under fed birds don’t produce well and are more prone to become ill. Birds receiving higher levels of nutrients than they need just get fat and you waste feed. Make sure they have a source of clean fresh water. Keep it free of ice so they can drink enough. Water is vital to them being able to consume and digest feed. Make sure they have what they need.

Watch for scales, mites, other skin issues and diseases and treat as necessary. Winter time is prime time for some of these issues. Keeping the nest boxes clean and the coop dry and covered with fresh shavings will go a long way in preventing some of these unwanted issues. Allowing the flock to get out in the sun and roam a little will give them exercise, allow them to peck some grass & bugs and get some fresh air and sunshine. All the things that make them happy, healthy and more productive.

Pond Management Takes Planning

Just because it is January, that doesn’t mean you can just forget about your pond. Weeds are a natural part of the landscape whether yards, fields, pastures or ponds. The ecosystem of a pond is usually stable, but fluctuations from weed overload or errors in controlling weeds can upset the balance of a pond and cause major problems. Now is the time to think about any weed issues you had and start looking at options to control the weeds in the early stages when weeds are more vulnerable.

Weed control is a lot like going to the doctor when you are sick. The doctor must know what is wrong before prescribing treatment. Same with weeds. There is no one product that cures every weed so we need to know which weeds we are dealing with. Knowing what weeds were in the pond last season will help you get more efficient control that can save you money.

Was the water color and fish activity normal? Changes in water color could be just some run off from rain or a mineral imbalance that needs to be addressed. Were the fish active when feeding, fishing or natural feeding on insects? Were the fish adequate size? Were the population numbers at a good stocking rate or did one species of fish overwhelm another species? Keeping a fish population balance is important for the health of a pond and continued fishing enjoyment. An imbalance can interfere with the dynamics of the pond and you see reductions in some species.

Starting early on planning your pond management is paramount for a successful pond. Small changes can disrupt the ecosystem of a pond. Improper treatment practices can lead to an imbalance of oxygen, harm beneficial plants, environmental issues, fish kills and more. Proper management and weed control practices are imperative to maintain a healthy pond and keep the surrounding environment healthy as well. Staying on top of your pond and its issues will go a long way to maintaining a healthy pond for you to enjoy.

If you have questions or need more information, contact N.C. Cooperative Extension, Yadkin County Center at 336-849-7908. N.C. Cooperative Extension is an equal opportunity provider and their programs are open to everyone.

As seen in the Yadkin Ripple January 2023