Keep your animals from suffering this winter
Winter is here and it is important to prepare animals you keep outside for the colder weather. Most large animals are kept outside in winter and there are certain steps you should take to ensure they stay safe.
For animals kept in a pasture, ensure posts and boards are secure, especially where snowdrifts form. It is essential that animals can get out of bad weather: one option is a run-in shed with the open end facing away from the wind. Make sure that mineral and salt blocks will not be covered in snow.
Always make fresh water — not forzen! — available to outdoor animals. Use stock tank heaters or insulated and heated water buckets. If water is too cold, livestock will typically drink less, which can lead to impactions or dehydration; water heaters will help make sure they get enough water. Keep paths free of slippery mud, snow and ice; a broken leg in a large animal can be disastrous.
It is important to routinely check your animals for any weight loss. Signs to look for include prominent ribs or vertebrae. Also make sure the animals’ coats are free of manure and mud. Debris in the fur prevents the longer, coarser winter coats from retaining heat. Animals that have wool, fleece or a thick coat can become deceptively thin and still look normal, so it is important to check body conditions monthly by feeling them individually. Make feeding adjustments before a problem develops.
Talk to your veterinarian about deworming animals soon. Have them check your horse’s teeth for hooks, points, or other dental problems. These can cause pain, dropping food and weight loss.
Small ruminants like sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas can also develop dental problems. If any large animal is losing weight or having difficulty eating, it is very important to get them checked. Make sure the animals are up to date on vaccines, too.
Don’t forget your barn cats (and dogs). Provide fresh water for them and a place to sleep that is enclosed (even in the barn) to help them retain body heat. Contrary to common belief, bigger is not better when it comes to dog houses. A smaller house is better, as it helps keep the heat in. The barn may keep the wind and snow out, but it’s still very cold in there for your smaller barn animals.
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