Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer is urging Kentucky livestock producers and other animal owners to prepare for a severe winter storm that is expected to strike the Commonwealth near the end of this week.

“Kentucky has been slammed by severe winter weather many times in recent years,” Commissioner Farmer said. “We remember all too well the ice storm that paralyzed most of the state almost exactly a year ago. That experience reminded us that we need to get ready before it hits.”

Tom Priddy, Extension meteorologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said a weather system from northern Mexico will track south of Kentucky Thursday and Friday. That system will pull a tremendous amount of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico that will combine with cold air from the north, resulting in heavy snow and cold temperatures.

Southern Kentucky counties are expected to be hardest hit with the weather forecast calling for 5-9 inches of snow, Priddy said. Areas between the southern tier counties and the Interstate 64 corridor are expected to get 3-5 inches of snow. The northernmost counties of Kentucky may get 1-3 inches, he said.

Those conditions will put Kentucky in the livestock emergency stress category by early to mid-day Friday, Priddy said. Older and younger animals and pets may be more susceptible to health problems stemming from the severe weather than others, he said. Stressful conditions are expected to continue until Monday morning, he said.

Warren Beeler, assistant director of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Division of Value-Added Animal and Aquaculture Promotion and a Grayson County farmer, said it’s most important for animals to have a readily available source of water in extreme weather conditions. Beeler said it’s critically important to animals’ safety and comfort to provide shelters or windbreaks for relief from extreme cold and wind. “An ample supply of high-quality feed is needed because livestock require extra nutrients to sustain themselves in the cold,” Beeler said.

Now is the time to get out the generator, make sure it is in good working order and fill it up with fuel, Beeler added. But don’t connect it to your home’s power system unless it has been properly installed and is disconnected from the main power grid when it is operating.

Kentuckians may monitor their local weather at the University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Center’s Web site, http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu/.