Stockmen struggle with heat to keep their livestock going
In excessive heat, water is critical
Not only are crops wilting in the heat of the day in this heat wave; livestock, also, are struggling.
Diepenbrock Farms of Lincolnville has a feedlot where calves are grown and fattened for sale to meat packers.
The cattle don’t have shade or cooling sprinklers.
“There’s not a lot we can do,” Gary Diepenbrock said. “The most critical thing we can do is to make sure that they have water.”
He said they are drinking three times as much water as they normally do. The feedlot is not stocked to capacity right now, so the cattle are divided among the available pens, giving them more drinking space at automatic waterers.
According to Diepenbrock, lighter cattle handle the heat better than the heavier cattle. The heaviest cattle are in pens that have two waterers each. The 80-gallon waterers are equipped with floats, keeping them automatically refilled. Each waterer can service 8 to 10 cattle at a time.
The feedlot is served by two interconnected wells. When the pressure gets low in one well, the other well automatically kicks on.
Diepenbrock said the cattle eat half as much as usual because of the heat, so they don’t gain as well. He has lost two calves so far from the heat.
“Considering the conditions, we’re getting along better than we expected,” he said.
Not many farmers in Marion County raise hogs anymore, but Dennis Klenda of Pilsen has persisted in doing so for more than 40 years. He doesn’t have modern facilities, so it requires extra effort to care for the animals in extreme heat.
“It’s a job,” he admitted. “It’s a challenge.”
He has 35 sows and 200 feeder pigs at various stages of growth. He waters down the sows that have litters three times a day. The pens that hold sows that are being bred are equipped with misters that keep concrete slabs wet. They operate intermittently throughout the day. The sows lay in the shade of open-fronted sheds and go out periodically to cool off and lie on the wet cement.
“They come out puffing,” Klenda said. “They know when to come out.”
The fat hogs are under a mister all day inside their sheds.
Klenda said his biggest problem is in the farrowing sheds. Mothers sometimes lay on their babies.
“When it’s so hot, they just don’t care,” he said.
Sometimes the piglets get scours from the wet straw.
Klenda turns them out into open pens after 10 days, but he was contemplating doing it sooner with the current three litters because of the heat.
Klenda grows his own milo for hog feed, but the harvest was short last year, and he is having to purchase grain at high prices.
With this year’s milo crop in question, he may be doing that for quite a while.
The one positive is that hog prices are high, too, and right now, Klenda said, he can cover the added expense.
Klenda also has a small cow herd. He said he has begun feeding hay because the grass is drying up.
Judging by all the ups and downs Klenda has experienced throughout the years, this is just another weather situation to cope with the best he can.
There is no relief in sight with 100-degree days expected to continue. Like Klenda said, it’s a challenge.
Last modified July 20, 2011