An updated climate outlook for January 2015 shows cooler weather likely to make an extended stay in the month ahead. The Climate Prediction Center released their temperature and precipitation outlook this week, depicting cooler than average temperatures are a little more likely to dominate South Dakota.
There were some hints of this coming a couple of weeks ago, but now it is official. Following a warmer than average December, the first couple of weeks of January will feel frigid, to both humans and livestock alike.
In preparation for colder than average temperatures, it is advised to make sure your livestock are in areas that are protected from wind and have access to sufficient water and feed. During the coldest days of the year, energy requirements will increase for all classes of livestock. Refer to the iGrow article Understanding the Effects of Cold Stress on Beef Cows for additional information on the effects of wind and cold stress on beef cows. There will be many days where temperatures will struggle to make it above freezing, so a check on water supplies and heaters is also recommended. Using body condition scoring to monitor animal health is a good practice to ensure that the animals are getting enough nutrition through the next couple of weeks.
Fortunately, the climate forecast also appears to be mostly dry for the early to middle part of January at least, so snow removal and moisture or mud in feedlots and on animal coats will most likely not be an issue. If the animals can be kept dry, this will reduce their vulnerability to hyperthermia and the energy they need to keep warm.
By mid-month, the coldest weather will be behind us (at least for a while), and warmer and drier conditions will come across the state. At that time feed rations can again be re-evaluated, as we look towards late winter and calving season to begin.