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Farmers keep cows warm in winter weather

Keeping cows warm

DE SOTO, Wis. (WKBT) - With temperatures dipping down below zero, many people are concerned about letting their pets outside. But farmers have to take special precautions this time of year for their livestock. 

The farmers at Wall-Stone Holsteins in De Soto have 400 cows to take care of. While it may not seem like their livestock are equipped to handle the cold, these farmers say otherwise. 

Some of the youngest cows are moved in an indoor facility just hours after they're born. But ideally, the calves would be outside in an outdoor hut.

"But that means the person has to be outside. And you can imagine what that's like in this weather or the heat and the rain," said Anne Marie Elwing, co-owner of Wall-Stone Holsteins. 

The cows can handle these conditions because they're built to battle the Wisconsin weather and are able to self regulate their temperatures naturally. 

"[In] October or November, you'll see them start to grow a lot more hair and pick up a furrier looking coat," said William Walleser, feed manager of Wall-Stone Holsteins. 

But the calves need a helping hand. To keep them around their ideal temperature of about 50 degrees, they'll throw a coat around them at the beginning of November. Just like with people, you don't want to get them too hot or too cold.

"And then it's kinda a iffy situation. You know you get some warm-ups in March," Elwing said. 

To keep utterly cold winds out of the barn, they've tacked down tarping. But this precaution has its downside. Because they've blocked off the airflow, they have to keep the industrial fans running. 

"If we get too much stale and stagnant air, and a lot of moisture that builds up in the barn and they have to re-breathe that, then that causes pneumonia," Walleser said.

But because the cattle are corralled inside, the handlers are able to clean the stalls two to three times a day while providing fresh, fluffy straw for their bedding. 

"If their legs or their feet get wet and they don't have a dry area, they can actually freeze those feet right off," Elwing said. 

When they're inside, that also means they have a consistent supply of food, which will help them maintain their body temperature. 

"Like we say, they'll take care of themselves if we give them the proper nutrients." 


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