Pneumonia threatens cows after rapid weather change

    Cows braving the cold after extreme weather. (WLUK)

    CHILTON, Wis. (WLUK) -- Northeast Wisconsin farmers are keeping a close eye on the health of their herds.

    From brutal cold to relative warmth, temperatures shifted dramatically last week, and the rapid change can make animals sick.

    “Farmers -- and everyone just has to deal with what Mother Nature gives them, and it’s been a challenge,” said Sarah Grotjan, agriculture educator for the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Outagamie County.

    Warmer weather this week is being welcomed by many, but for farmers like Larry Meyer, who owns the Jenlar Holsteins and Brown Swiss dairy farm in Chilton, it's another hurdle.

    “(Cows) obviously can’t take their jackets on and off like we can, so we need to make sure that they are always clean and dry, and we’re always very closely monitoring them for any kind of respiratory issues that they may have,” he said.

    Northeast Wisconsin went from sub-zero to above freezing in a matter of days.

    A rapid temperature change like that can pose several threats to cattle, such as pneumonia.

    “We had the extreme warm weather, following right after the extreme cold weather, and with the fog and all, respiratory infections can set in, just because they’re weakened from the cold,” Grotjan said.

    To keep his animals from getting sick, Meyer tries to maintain a steady temperature inside the barns, houses young calves in hutches, vaccinates the animals and puts down more bedding.

    But sometimes, all that doesn't work.

    Farmers say when it warms up after a hard freeze, condensation inside the barn and can drip down on the cows and their bedding.

    “That bedding can harbor bacteria a lot easier, which can then lead to mastitis and pneumonia, as well,” said Calumet County UW-Extension agriculture educator Amber O’Brien.

    Farmers say it costs almost $2,000 to raise an animal from birth to when they can begin producing, so although all of Meyer's animals are healthy, he's watching them closely.

    “With animals being our livelihood and our future, especially our young animals, we want to make sure they stay as healthy as we can possibly have them.”

    Farmers say the warm temperatures didn't stick around for very long, so the impact on cattle and other animals hasn't been as bad as they've seen in the past.

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