*Raising Livestock in Difficult Climate Areas*
On the Eastern Plains of Colorado, raising livestock can become rather tricky due to adverse weather conditions. There are rarely sufficient trees to block the wind unless you’ve planted them yourself and remained on that property long enough for them to mature into adequate windbreaks. Also due to the lack of trees, shade from the desert-like sun becomes problematic. At sea-level altitudes, a person or light-skinned animal is certainly open to sunburn given enough time. At our high altitude, the closer proximity to the sun means it might only take 5 minutes for the skin to turn pink, or a mere 10 minutes for the skin to be red enough to become painful or even blister. With temperatures well over 100*F in the Summer, ranging down to well below 0*F in the Winter, wind-chill danger from our regular 25-100 m.p.h or more “breezes” can kill off your flock in short order; while that same wind in the Summer means dehydration is a chief concern. Finally, what to do about predators? With the exception of bears, we regularly see it all out here on the plains: Wolves, coyotes and coy-dogs, bobcats, foxes, owls, eagles, hawks, skunks, mountain lions- cougars, rattlesnakes, etc. Pheasants, quail, prairie dogs, gophers, rats/ field-mice and rabbits also love to steal our animal feed. That wastes money as well as brings in the risk of serious diseases like the plague.
The basics of adequate food and water provision are covered by most states’ Department of Agriculture laws. We won’t be covering the basics of animal care in this article, although we’re available to answer questions should there be any. Instead, based on our experiences in this region, the six things we’ll address are how we: protect from heat, protect from cold, protect from wind and sun, protect from predation and protect from dehydration. Your results may vary, this just happens to be what works here on our ranch.
Heat/ Cold: Young calves, chicks, ducklings and piglets need a relatively warm place to start out in life. But when chicks are supposed to be kept in a 99*F area and the temperature outside is 105*F, the inside of that coop is going to easily reach 130*F and you’ll lose chicks fast. Sure, you can bring them into your air-conditioned home and raise them under a heat lamp, using a thermometer to help control their climate. We raise about 300 chicks at a time, however, so raising them in the home would be a nightmare for us. They’d also be a major health concern since I’m allergic to their feathers. Those bottle-baby calves are cute as can be and fun to raise for food or to sell, but during a blizzard, how many cows do you want in your living room? Contrary to popular belief, feeder pigs (about 40-60 lbs., who then grow to be about 230-250 lbs. before butcher time) aren’t cuddly and sweet like Wilbur was in “Charlotte’s Web”. They’re also destructive as can be. So we manage the heat and cold this way: We take advantage of the natural climate in our area. See Part 2 for continuation of article and photos.
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