Kentucky is in the throes of an early-season arctic blast that could cause problems for livestock operations, ranging from frozen waterers to sick cattle.

“A deep, upper-level low-pressure system will linger over the northeastern United States through the next few days,” said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture meteorologist.

Priddy said a blast of arctic air will filter into the lower Ohio Valley this week and highs could only be in the 20s for most Kentucky locations. Combining these temperatures with the gusty winds will cause an extended period of livestock cold stress in the danger and emergency categories. Livestock producers should take precautions and try to understand how these conditions could impact their animals.

Low ambient temperatures can increase the energy requirements of livestock as they compensate to maintain core body temperature. Producers either need to increase their animals’ feed intake or increase the energy density of the diet by feeding higher quality hay or adding more grain or fat to the grain mix, said Jeff Lehmkuhler, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture beef specialist.

Lehmkuhler recommends producers continue to monitor cows during the wintertime and make sure to maintain the animals’ body condition.

• “Poor quality hay may not provide adequate energy to maintain gestating cows that are entering the third trimester,” he said. “Consider having the hay tested to determine if you need to supplement during times of possible cold stress, especially for enduring cold spells.”

• He said to consider separating younger and thinner cows that may not have the same internal insulation as conditioned older cows and supplementing them accordingly or offering them higher quality forage if available.