Winter animal care

Cold weather is quickly approaching. Being prepared will help your livestock winter a little easier.

Winter is quickly approaching, which means cold temperatures! Utilizing some easy techniques on your farm will help you manage your herd successfully during the winter months.

Water

Ensuring your herd has access to fresh, clean water is essential to their health. In the winter, battling frozen water buckets and tanks can be a challenge. By utilizing tank heaters, heated buckets or automatic waterers, water is kept ice-free and at a temperature the animal is comfortable drinking. Products that utilize electricity, such as tank heaters and heated buckets, should be checked with a voltmeter to ensure there is no current running through the water. Any electrical current will deter animals from drinking from the water tank or bucket. By inserting one end of the voltmeter in the water tank and the other into the ground, you will get a reading that will indicate if there is a problem. Make sure to check this often.

The University of Wisconsin Extension has published a water consumption chart that outlines the amounts of water certain species will consume per day. Ensuring that your animal is consuming enough water each day is critical to their overall health and wellbeing.

Amount of water livestock will consumer per day

Species

Water needs, gallons per day

Cattle

7-12

Goats

1-4

Hogs

6-8

Horses

8-12

Llamas

2-5

Poultry

Up to 1

Rabbits

Up to 1

Sheep

1-4

Housing

Most animals need some shelter during the winter months, however their natural winter coats allow them to endure cold temperatures. Humans oftentimes are prone to making the winter environment for their animals too warm, which is unhealthy for animals. Michigan State University Extension recommends the following factors to consider when evaluating the housing of your animals:

  • Air quality. Is there adequate ventilation to help dispel respiration gasses and manure odor? Poor ventilation can cause irritation in the animal’s lungs and lead to pneumonia.
  • Dry bedding areas. Dry bedding provides insulation from the cold ground and helps decrease the amount of energy animals use to keep them warm.

Feed

Animals must maintain their energy reserves in order to endure cold temperatures. They also need food for growth and maintenance. During cold weather, it may be necessary to increase the amounts of good quality feed and forages. Supplying adequate amounts of feed is essential in your herd’s wellbeing through the winter months.

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