Checklist to prepare 4-H animal project facilities for winter weather

Ten items to check for and do before winter weather arrives when you have or are getting 4-H animal projects.

Fall weather is the perfect time to check if you are ready for winter. Photo: Katelyn Thompson.

Fall weather is the perfect time to check if you are ready for winter. Photo: Katelyn Thompson.

Michigan’s climate continues to change, but we know cold weather is not far away. If we look even farther ahead, many youth will be bringing home their 2017 4-H animal projects in rather cold, winter weather. While many youth already have steers and other breeding projects, it’s never too late to double check facilities before cold weather really sets it.

Michigan State University Extension offers this checklist to determine if you are ready for cold weather for your next animal project.

  • Barn is clean. Manure and bedding move easier when it’s not frozen. Use the warmer, fall weather to clean the barn and even spread manure if able in your area.
  • Barn is disinfected. Your barn must be clean before you disinfect. This is probably the single most important part because a disinfectant will only sanitize a clean area. Simple disinfectants such as a diluted bleach can be used in a sprayer to clean floors, walls and equipment. One important reminder is to allow the facility time to dry before bedding or using the area.
  • Fair supplies are unloaded and unpacked. Many youth will exhibit animal projects throughout spring and summer at local fairs and shows. When done with events, many will forget to unpack the show supplies. Some supplies can freeze in cold weather and create even more of a mess. Other supplies may have some mildew on them if left out in cold weather. Doing a quick check of supplies may help you prevent cleanup in spring.
  • Feeders and water pails are cleaned. Two areas are continually used by livestock on a daily basis: feeders and waterers. Use a brush to help clean the feeders and break apart any remains or stains to the pails. Take the cleaning one step further by disinfecting. Once the disinfecting agent has had time to dry, thoroughly wash with water to alleviate any undesirable taste and remove the chemical.
  • Old feed is disposed of or properly stored. Some feedstuff such as hay is meant to last longer, but must be properly stored. Concentrate feeds may go bad and need to be disposed of. This fall, pay particular attention to animal feeds that may require a future Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). Those feeds requiring a VFD in 2017, even if purchased in 2016, will require a VFD order. Visit the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development website for more information about VFDs.
  • Water supply is ready for cold weather. If you have animals now, heaters should be in place in water tanks and other resources ready to help deal with frozen water. With electric heaters, make sure there is no way animals can get ahold of the cord and that there is no stray electricity in the water. If you don’t currently have animals, drain and unhook water lines, buckets, etc. to prevent freezing. Don’t forget to drain hoses!
  • Bedding supply is ready. Bedding is a way to help animals regulate their body temperature. Bedding varies greatly by species and should be appropriate for the age of the animal.
  • Rodent traps are in place (if needed). Rodents often travel inside, becoming more noticeable in the winter weather. Setting traps in fall and checking them regularly will help you better monitor your rodent population and prevent potential contamination concerns.
  • Blankets and heaters are ready if needed. Depending on the animals you raise, heat lamps or other heating sources, including equine blankets, may be necessary. Make sure warming equipment is easy to access and in good working order.
  • Establish a veterinarian/client/patient relationship. If you have animals at home or if you will be getting animals in winter weather, make sure you have a veterinarian in your area that is willing to treat your animals. Knowing who to contact in case of an emergency will make communication easier if the need arises.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM content are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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