From blizzards and ice to rainfall and floods, this winter has brought plenty of extreme weather to many parts of the country. Between such wild temperature swings and wet conditions, how can you ensure your cows avoid illness and disease? Dr. Meggan Hain, staff veterinarian at Penn Vet’s Marshak Dairy, has a few tips to help you keep your herd healthy this winter.
- Proper Ventilation. Hain says the most important tool for preventing pneumonia is good ventilation. Your instinct might be to close windows and doors to ward off cold temperatures, but she says you could actually be doing more harm than good. She advises farmers to open the curtains and windows as often as the temperature allows. “In this unusual weather, heifers housed outdoors with a run-in shed tend to do better than those housed indoors, because of ventilation,” she says.
- Vaccinate. If you’re planning to use vaccines to prevent disease, Hain says it’s important to make sure you store the medicines properly and administer the vaccines when animals are healthy to be the most efffective. “Consider adding pneumonia-specific vaccinations just before the most challenging times of early and late winter to provide added protection for your animals,” she says.
- Avoid stress. Hain advises farmers to refrain from transporting animals, intermingling pens or introducing new stock from outside sources during this time. “The unusual weather is already adding stress,” she says.
- Monitor. Catching an illness early is the best chance for effective treatment, according to Hain. Keep an eye on your animals and watch for symptoms of sickness.
- Treat Promptly. Despite your best efforts, your cows may catch colds or pneumonia. She encourages producers to treat any cases promptly to avoid long-term damage. While mass medication does work in some cases, Hain advises producers consult their own veterinarians to establish a treatment program that fits the situation.
On the plus side, winter weather is typically good for herd health and high milk production, according to Hain. While some stock can handle cold weather just fine, she does recommend farmers feed young calves extra milk during cold spells this time of year.
What has winter been like in your area? How are you keeping your herd healthy? Let us know in the comments.