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Equine (Horse, Pony, Mule)Uncategorized

Preparing Your Animal Farm for Winter: A Guide for Owners

By December 1, 2023 December 15th, 2023 No Comments

Preparing Your Animal Farm for Winter: A Guide for Owners

By Jake Murphy, DVM

Winter is approaching, and it’s time to ensure your animal farm is ready to weather the cold months ahead. Proper winter preparation is crucial for the health and well-being of your animals. Whether you’re raising livestock or keeping pets, here’s a comprehensive guide that any farm owner should read.

1. Shelter and Bedding: First and foremost, evaluate the shelters for your animals. Ensure that they are well-insulated, free from drafts, and in good repair. Insulation helps keep the warmth inside during cold weather. For those animals kept outdoors, consider windbreaks like hay bales or natural barriers to protect them from harsh winds. Make sure all shelters are clean and provide fresh bedding, such as straw or wood shavings, to keep your animals dry and comfortable. Ideal shelters will be three sided to give adequate wind protection. Ventilation is also very important, so do not shut shelters completely! When urine and feces mix, ammonia is created, which can be very harmful to the lungs of your animals. Routinely clean out the bedding and get down on your animals level in its shelter to see if you have a hard time breathing or can smell the ammonia. If you can, they definitely can!


2. Feeding and Watering: During winter, animals need extra calories to maintain their body temperature. Adjust their feed accordingly, providing high-quality, energy-rich feeds. Monitor their body condition and adjust rations as needed to avoid overfeeding or underfeeding. Also, remember that water sources can freeze in cold weather. Use heated waterers or check water troughs frequently to ensure access to unfrozen water. Also, think about accessibility of feed and water. Is the trough across an area prone to freezing or mud that your animal may not want to walk across to get to? Is it easy for you to check and monitor? Are pipes protected? Is feed trough free from moisture to prevent molding of hay?


3. Health and Vaccinations: Winter can be particularly challenging for young or vulnerable animals. Schedule a check-up with your veterinarian before winter hits to ensure all your animals are in good health. Discuss the need for vaccinations, deworming, and any other preventive measures. In harsh climates, some animals may require additional care or supplements, so consult with a professional for guidance.


4. Hoof Care: This is especially important for larger animals like horses, cows, goats, and sheep. Trim their hooves as needed to prevent overgrowth, which can lead to health issues, especially in slippery winter conditions. Proper hoof care will also help your animals maintain their balance and avoid injuries. Watch for areas around heavily trafficked zones like food and water troughs for mud accumulation. If an animal is standing in mud all day, they are more prone to issues like thrush or foot rot. Consider rubber mats near these areas to limit mud exposure.


5. Winter Diet: If you grow your own feed or have stored hay and grain, make sure it’s protected from moisture and pests. Moldy feed can be harmful to animals, and rodents can damage your feed supply. Store it in a dry, well-ventilated area and use proper storage containers.


6. Exercise and Enrichment: Even in winter, it’s essential to keep your animals active and engaged. Lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and health issues. Provide a safe space for your animals to move around, even in cold weather. For smaller animals like dogs, consider indoor activities or toys to keep them mentally stimulated.


7. Protection from Frostbite: Examine your animals regularly for signs of frostbite, especially on their extremities like hooves, tails, and ears. Prevent frostbite by providing adequate shelter, windbreaks, and dry bedding. Especially important during the Nor’Easter!


8. Emergency Preparedness: Create a winter emergency plan. Have a backup power source in case of power outages and a well-stocked first aid kit. Stock up on extra feed and water, and have a communication plan in place in case you need assistance during severe winter weather.

9. Monitoring and Observation: Pay close attention to your animals. Observe their behavior, appetite, and overall health regularly. Early detection of any issues can make a big difference in their well-being.


In summary, preparing your animal farm for winter involves ensuring shelter, nutrition, health care, and a comfortable environment for your animals. By taking these steps, you’ll help your animals not only survive but thrive during the cold months. A well-prepared farm will lead to healthier, happier animals and peace of mind for you as their owner. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment please reach out to Kulshan Vet Hospital at 360-354-5095.

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