Cold weather is hard on livestock, and Kentucky, the biggest beef-producing state east of the Mississippi, has a lot of cold cows these days. With the arctic temperatures expected to stay around through next week, livestock can become vulnerable.
"Normal temperatures this time of year are supposed to be in the low to mid-40s, with lows dipping into the 20s," said Matthew Dixon, a University of Kentucky agricultural meteorologist. "The low temperature for Lexington on Jan. 22 was minus-6 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's the coldest this city has been since January 2004."
Dixon said that over the next week and possibly into early February, the livestock cold stress index will hover in the danger and emergency categories in much of Kentucky.
"We just want to remind livestock producers to take proper precautions," said Jeff Lehmkuhler, livestock specialist for the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. "We've already seen a case where a horse fell through the ice and had to be rescued earlier this month. There's always a risk for that as animals search for water sources and end up walking out onto ice-covered ponds."
UK livestock specialists said producers should make sure animals have adequate shelter, water, dry bedding and extra feed to make it through this cold spell. Many animals have a higher requirement for energy in the colder months, so producers should supplement with high-quality forages and grains.
Horses and cattle need shelter to provide protection from the wind and access to clean water.
Pet owners should bring pets indoors.