Top four strategies for keeping your 4-H animal projects healthy in cold weather

Use these four steps to help keep your 4-H animals healthy during the long Michigan winters.

Good animal management strategies can help to keep your 4-H projects healthy and happy all winter long. Photo credit: Julie Thelen | MSU Extension

Good animal management strategies can help to keep your 4-H projects healthy and happy all winter long. Photo credit: Julie Thelen | MSU Extension

As the winter temperatures settle in, make sure you are keeping your 4-H projects healthy! Most animals are well adapted to living outside, so for them the cold isn’t as bad as it is to you or me. However, just like added heat in the summer, cold temperatures require additional animal monitoring.

Follow these four steps to make sure your 4-H projects are healthy this winter.

  1. Make sure animals have plenty of fresh air. Although it seems natural to close all of the barn doors in the winter, similar to how you seal your house up tight, remember animals are different. To help keep them healthy and prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses, make sure you have adequate ventilation.
  2. Water, water, water! Whether providing water in a bucket, tank or automated system, it is important to check the water each day. If you are like many farms, you have probably experienced a frozen water tank or two. That is why it’s important to check the water supply every day: realizing the issue and reacting to it are essential in keeping animals healthy and on track for market or reproduction. The temperature of the water can also play a role in animal production. One study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine stated that ponies drank approximately 40 percent more water when it was warm, rather than ambient near-freezing water. No matter what the temperature, make sure the water you are providing your animals is clean and easily available in adequate amounts.
  3. Know what is in your feed! Knowing the contents and the quality of the feed you are offering to animals is essential in making sure they have adequate nutrition to meet their energy requirements. Researchers at Oregon State University mention the “lowest critical environmental temperatures for livestock vary according to species and researchers, but 20 or 32 degrees Fahrenheit are often used as the lowest temperature dry livestock can tolerate without additional energy demands to support normal body temperature.” Paying attention to the amount of feed consumed as well as the temperature is important in keeping your animal on track!
  4. Pay special attention to young and new animals. Just like young children, younger animals and especially newborn animals are more susceptible to the cold weather. When new animals are born, make sure they are dried off in a reasonable amount of time. Additionally, remember how crucial it is for animals to receive their first milk, colostrum. If transporting new animals to your farm, make sure you minimize the amount of stress they will encounter as well as provide adequate dry, minimal dust bedding to help reduce the effect of winter chill.

Although it’s cold outside, these good animal management strategies can help to keep your 4-H projects healthy and happy all winter long! Youth can learn more animal management tips at Michigan State University Extension 4-H events like the 4-H Beef, Sheep and Swine Teen and Adult Leaders Workshop and through other related news articles.

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