Freezing weather conditions affects farming in several ways. The more significant effects are the provision of feed and water to livestock; the delivery of feed to farms and the transport of products from farms; the freezing of water pipes to sheds and outdoor water troughs; the freezing of milking machines and other equipment in milking parlours; freezing of coolant and diesel in tractors; damage to forage crops being grazed in-situ or stored in farmyards. There are also the personal risks of working and driving over icy surfaces.
Livestock will survive for a period of time without food but animals will show signs of dehydration if left longer than 24 hours without water. With cattle in sheds, the provision of feed is generally not a problem as forage and meal is usually stored in the farmyard or nearby. The most vulnerable groups of animals to water shortage are milking cows, animals on high concentrate diets and animals fed hay, straw or other very dry feeds.
• Milking cows must have access to drinking water at all times. A cow producing 30 litres of milk and being fed a silage- based diet requires 75-90 litres (16-20 gallons) of water per day.
• Finishing animals on high levels of dry feed, such as high concentrate diets have a big demand for water. These animals should always have free access to water. An animal consuming 10kg dry matter of dry feed will need 60 litres (13 gallons) of water daily. Concentrate feeding levels should be reduced and animals put on wet silage fed to appetite, where an adequate water supply cannot be provided. These animals need to be introduced to meals gradually again once water supply is restored.
• Reducing mineral intake may reduce the demand for water, particularly in sheep.
• If access of livestock to water has been restricted and then suddenly made available, over-drinking or water toxicity can cause health problems and even fatalities in extreme cases. Allow gradual access to water initially, when animals are extremely thirsty.