Protect Your Animals from Cold Weather

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by Tiffanee Boone

When temperatures drop below freezing, animal owners need to think about four points to protect their pets and livestock: appropriate shelter against the wind, thick bedding, enough feed, and non-frozen water. These factors depend on the animal’s size, age, health and thickness of hair; some animals are more vulnerable to cold than others. Particular care should occur with older animals that may have arthritis, and with young animals who are susceptible to disease. Newborn livestock can freeze to death before they ever even reach their mother’s milk.

Animals can dehydrate in very cold weather. They need plenty of fresh, liquid water. Ice is not an option, because animals cannot lick the top to get enough water. Avoid metal water bowls, since an animal’s tongue can easily stick to the freezing metal. If low temperatures have frozen the water in the bowl or bucket, replace it with fresh water. If water continuously freezes, break the ice from time to time so animals may get a drink. Snow is not a substitute for water and neither is wet food. One solution to frozen water is a pail de-icer, available from pet supply catalogs and farm stores. You can purchase a large, heavy livestock bowl if your animals are continuously turning the dish over, or dig a shallow hole and set the bowl into it to prevent spilling.

You also should feed your animals more concentrate and hay during the winter months, because they need more calories in winter to generate heat to keep warm. Protecting your livestock from cold winds can reduce these feed requirements and improve your profitability. Furthermore, pregnant and nursing females have special nutritional needs during cold weather. They need more protein and energy to keep stay healthy.

Animals that regularly live outdoors can handle cold weather if they have proper shelter and access to food and water. they need a wind proof, waterproof enclosure. Windbreaks play an important role in the protection of livestock, particularly in young animals. The cold winds during the winter and early spring can lower livestock production. Properly placed windbreaks can provide benefits to feedlots, livestock pastures, and calving areas. Reducing wind speed in winter lowers animal stress, improves animal health, and increases feeding efficiency.

Each windbreak should be designed to meet the specific livestock operation. A well-thought-out and properly cared for windbreak protects livestock during the winter and provides economic benefits to the landowner over the long term. The time spent on layout, site preparation, weed control, and replanting is paid back many times throughout the life of a windbreak. Some animals may further need blankets or sweaters to help keep them warm; just make sure to take them off when the weather warms up. With a few preparations before the cold weather hits, you can prevent unnecessary death in your livestock herd, increase the productivity of your operation, and keep your animals safe.