Extreme cold challenges Alberta cattle producers — and their animals

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Extremely cold weather across Alberta in recent weeks has created some additional challenges for many livestock producers and their animals.

The bulls at Greg Hawkwood’s farm north of Calgary eat about 30 percent more when they get this cold because it gives them extra energy to withstand harsh conditions.

Like many farmers, Hawkwood has been busy keeping a close eye on the animals, feeding them, preventing drinking water from freezing and providing some shelter from the wind.

“We are determined to make our livestock as safe and comfortable as possible,” he said.

Hawkwood expects to have enough food for its livestock this winter, but last summer’s drought has led to a shortage of feed supplies, an increase in its cost and uncertainty for some farmers.

“Now we hope we get the start of spring,” he said, “because forage stocks are running low.”

“We’ll be fine as long as we don’t get some cold until February.”

Hawkwood says the farming community holds together in times like these.

“All the farmers are in touch with each other. We all talk and say, ‘Hey, how’s it going?'” what do you need? “If someone collapses, and the words spread, everyone will show up. We are a community that holds it all together,” he said.

Hawkwood pours into feed trough. He was preoccupied with keeping a close eye on the animals, feeding them, preventing the drinking water from freezing and providing some protection from the wind. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Karen Schmid of Alberta Beef Producers says it has been a challenging year for many farmers, with some having to downsize their herds in the face of dwindling feed supplies and rising costs.

Schmid said animals can handle well in the cold as long as they have proper supports, such as windbreaks, and are kept dry and well-fed.

“Cattle are very good at these temperatures, as long as they have extra energy,” she said.

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