Winter is officially here and with that a change to colder weather. While it may be easy for us to put on another layer (or three) of clothing or place another “log on the fire” to help keep us warm, it’s not that easy for our animals. They rely on our support to help them through challenging weather situations. With that in mind, here are some tips to help keep them comfortable and safe during our cold winter months.
Feed: Animals may burn up to 30%+ more energy just to stay warm. Make sure they have the extra calories in their diet or they will burn energy from their body stores. This extra energy can be given by adding oil or fat to the ration which allows the animal to get a concentrated source of energy since fat or oil has 2.25 times more energy than corn for the same volume. Oil or fat also releases heat slower over time while something like extra corn will burn more quickly in their bodies and then the animals will be cold again. However, one challenge with oils and fats is that the cold temperature tends to make them a little hard and handling becomes less convenient. This is one place that something like roasted whole soybeans works very well.
Hay: Offer a lower quality (higher fiber) hay. It will take more energy to digest the fiber and the energy it makes tends to be burned off quickly as a heat source rather than a work energy source. BUT make sure the animal still gets all the nutrients it needs.
Water: Make sure they have unfrozen water (heated buckets are wonderful). Also check for stray voltage, usually in the more permanent facets, for they will not drink if they get a shock. And watch their feed intake. If they stop eating, look at the water situation first.
Shelters: Shelter is one of the first things all animals will seek. It does not need to be fancy. Even a wind break will help prevent the cold air from removing warm trapped air in their hair coat. Preventing an animal from getting wet should also be a goal. Getting the hair wet will remove the warm insulting property of the trapped warm air. Provide shelter with plenty of air movement (but no drafts on the animals). Confining animals in an enclosed shelter may be warmer but the humidity will quickly increase which may in turn create respiratory concerns. One other way to make shelters more comfortable for animals is to use round bales of hay inside the barn as a wind break in front of the door where the animals come in and go out.
Extra Care for Older Animals: It’s important to remember that older animals don’t always handle the cold as well. Putting horse blankets on senior horses, an old t-shirt on your favorite girl dog before she goes out to use the bathroom, leaving the garage door slightly cracked for the cats to come in and putting a heat lamp in the chicken coop are all extra efforts that will increase animal comfort.
Animals are usually very well equipped to keep warm in the colder weather but with some early planning and observations, we can help prevent any cold weather issue with our animals.
Stop in at your local Hubbard Feeds dealer and ask about our line of Hubbard® Life products.
Posted on 1/27/2014 by Dr. Ed Bonnette |
Category: Equine, Poultry, Cat, Dog, Rabbit, Sheep, Goat, Specialty, Game Bird, Chinchilla, Guinea Pig, Alpaca, Llama, Deer, Ratite, Pigeon, Rat and Mouse, Bison