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Michigan farmers work to protect animals from bitter cold

Two cattle at Sweet Briar Farm spending their time in the snow. January 18th.
Sweet Briar Farm
Two cattle at Sweet Briar Farm in West Branch

The National Weather Service is projecting temperatures in the single digits for mid-Michigan in the coming days.

With these harsh weather conditions on the horizon, mid-Michigan farmers are taking necessary measures to protect their livestock from the elements.

Mike and Kelsey Pressler are the owners of Sweet Briar Farm in West Branch. The two shared how they ensure the safety of their animals during the winter season.

“The most important things are to make sure that they have adequate food and access to water that's not frozen and then some kind of protection from the wind,” said Kelsey Pressler.

Kelsey said they have to be more protective of their goats and chickens while their pigs and cows are more tolerant to the cold weather.

She also said their cow will usually sleep outside the barn and get covered with snow.

“To have snow cover on your cows is actually a good sign, because that means the snow is not melting, so they're not losing body heat and they have adequate body fat for the conditions,” said Kelsey Pressler.

She said one of the biggest challenges the cold weather is posing is keeping the water from freezing.

However, she said the cold is not their biggest concern.

“Animals are more likely to have respiratory illness. When there's big swings in temperature. So that's something where we will keep a close eye on everyone, especially the goats.”

If the cold weather stretches into the spring it can also affect the birthing season.

Mike Pressler said it is important to keep an eye on animals that are due to give birth in low temperatures.

“With our cows, we've had a calf born in the 20s, one spring, 20°F, and we basically found the animal right away. It was pretty freshly born, and we scooped it up and brought it into a three-sided shed with some hay and warmed it up.”

In a recent statement, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) said that farmers should clean up any areas where anti-freeze may have spilled and to keep containers of solution out of the reach of animals.


Jazmin Anderson is a newsroom intern covering central Michigan for WCMU.