Cold Weather Safety for Ranchers and Livestock | 10 Things to Know

Cold Weather Safety Farm Ranch LivestockFarmers and ranchers in the northern tier states are all too familiar with the cold and severe weather conditions that winter may bring each year. Everything takes just a bit longer in the deep snow and strong wind. Equipment takes that much longer to warm up and keep running, water source threaten to freeze up and traveling the highways becomes slick and dangerous when more snow and ice roll in.

Despite being used to these condition each year, it always serves as a good reminder of the basics of winter survival tips for both agriculture workers and livestock. No matter how much we prepare, events such as last year’s winter storm Atlas prove that we may always be caught off guard. As winter weather begins this week for much of the country, we’ll review 5 tips for human and livestock care in these cold weather conditions.

For those working out in the cold this week…

  1. Avoid exposing skin to extreme cold for long periods of time. Wear layers to block wind.
  2. Avoid overexertion, pace yourself and rest frequently. Stay hydrated.
  3. Keep an eye out for downed power lines or storm damaged structures after heavy snow or strong winds.
  4. Make sure you have good footing when lifting or climbing. Be careful lifting heavy objects.
  5. Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by running engines only in well-ventilated areas.

When caring for livestock out in the cold this week…

  1. Livestock should be provided a natural or man-made wind-break. Providing shelter from strong winds makes a significant difference during severe wind chills.
  2. Livestock require more energy for maintenance in cold temperatures. Provide adequate hay/forage for calories. High-fiber feedstuffs also helps maintain body temperature by producing heat during digestion.
  3. Ensure water sources do not freeze. Livestock still need clean water supplies in cold weather.
  4. Young livestock are less tolerant of cold temperatures. Be sure young animals remain well-fed and sheltered during severe winter weather.
  5. Mud has a very negative effect on animal health and comfort in cold weather. Provide straw or hay to give animals dry, insulated bedding to avoid muddy areas.

In Montana, be sure to check out the Montana Department of Transportation Road Map and Mobile App. Also, the National Weather Service Offices (Missoula, Great Falls, Glasgow, Billings) always provide the most up to date weather forecasts and conditions.

But don’t forget… When all of the chores are done and livestock are fed, it’s important to spend a little time playing with man’s best friend and enjoy the snow!

What preparations are involved in surviving the cold short days of winter around your farm or ranch? Help us add to this list! Send us your photos or a description of some of the tasks required around your place this winter. Leave a comment below or email This is part of a month-long series of 10 Things to Know about Cattle. To read other posts in the series, click the image below.

Click this image to view all posts in the 30-day blogging series, 10 Things to Know About Cattle

Click this image to view all posts in the 30-day blogging series, 10 Things to Know About Cattle


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