Ready for cold weather on our farm.
We live in Texas. It can be 80 degrees today and 28 degrees tomorrow. Because of the sudden change in the weather we start preparing our home and barns for the winter. When the temperatures start to drop, the work on the farm does not slow down. Now is the time to prepare your farm and livestock for the cold, winter temperatures ahead. Being prepared and having a winter emergency plan will reduce the number of sick animals and save money. Planning for and providing the basic needs – food, water and shelter, will help keep your animals healthy over the winter months.
Plan ahead for your livestock’s winter water source. Ensuring an adequate and dependable supply of water will encourage optimal health and performance of livestock. You can’t just rely on natural water sources because in really cold weather the water will freeze and it can take days before it thaws out. You will need to make sure that fresh water is available several times a day. To prevent your water source from freezing such as insulating the pipes and faucets.
If your livestock ;are accustomed to foraging throughout the warmer months, you will need to make plans for additional food sources in the winter. Animals need to eat more in cold weather to provide extra calories for heat energy. If weather is cold and windy, livestock need extra feed just to keep warm. You will need food to supplement thin pastures. Plan ahead for emergency feeding procedures. Put out round bales of hay.
When the wind picks up and the temperatures fall, livestock will need shelter. Many animals like cattle, horses, and goats are content to live outdoors all year, but will need shelter from the wind and winter storms. Before it gets too cold, set up shelter or windbreak areas for animals kept outside. Wind breaks come in different forms such as barns, open sheds, tree groves, and even stacks of hay. Be sure to winterize the barn and any other shelter buildings on the farm. Inspect the roof and make sure it is stable. Check for and repair any roof leaks.
It is important throughout winter to check on all of your livestock daily. Their needs may change as the temperatures fluctuate. A well thought out winter plan for your farm will prepare you for unexpected emergencies and keep your livestock safe and sound through the winter months.
Prepare your home and barn for the cold weather by:
- Wrap all exposed pies located outside or in unheated areas of the home and barns.
- Remove garden hoses from outside faucets. Insulate outside faucets with Styrofoam cover, rags or paper. (Feed sack work great.)
- Cover vents around the foundation of your home.
- Drip outside faucets 24 hours a day (5 drops per minute). This is not necessary unless temperatures are expected to be 28 degrees or below for a least 4 hours. (Be sure to turn off the faucets after the threat of freezing weather.)
- In unheated garages and barns, shut off water to washing machines, water supply for livestock. Drain the water from the pipes to prevent freezing.
- Layer Up! Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat help prevent losing your body heat.
- Don’t forget your furry friends. Bring pets indoors. If the can’t come inside, make sure the have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
When the frost is on your goats nose, are you ready to keep them healthy through the winter? Here are a few items to take into consideration about your herd’s health and nutrition in the winter months.
Be prepared by doing/knowing the following:
- All goats are up to date on vaccinations and other needs – CDT, selenium and vitamin E and D.
- Shelters are in good repair – covered with no area for leakage, strong enough to withstand winds, give enough protection to keep the goats out of the cold, damp weather.
- Enough shelters for all animals. Remember goats do not always share well. You might need to add some wooden pallets to “divide” the shelter areas so more goats can use the shelter.
- If feed areas are not in shelter areas, some sort of cover should be available to keep goats dry while eating and keep feed dry.
- Have enough paddocks/areas if you need to switch goats around – as an example, one or two goats are not being allowed in shelters or not allowed to eat their share – these goats would need to be in an area of their own.
- Goats are up to date on worming and hoof trimming.
- Remember goats need extra nutrition during the cold winter time – feeding grain or some alfalfa in the night time allows their rumens to work through the night helping to keep the goats warm.
- Have goat coats or people sweatshirts cut to fit ready for goats if you see some shivering.
- Fences in good repair.
- Sick pen available should you need it.
- Have your hay in storage, covered well. If you find a “steaming” hay bale remove immediately from other hay to keep from starting a fire.
- Have grain stored in covered containers – winter time causes unwanted little creatures to search for easy sources of grain.
- Have extra water available should lines freeze or other reason for not being able to have fresh water.
- Be prepared to provide hot water to the goats on days where their water is very cold or has ice in it or is ice!
- Start immune enhancer/vitamins to help goats stay healthy through the winter. These can be human holistic/herbal type or regular immune enhancer vitamins.
- Keep minerals (should include selenium) available for the goats at all times in a dry area.
- Make sure your first aid kit is well stocked – you may find a storm is brewing and you cannot get out to the feed/farm store.
- Check coat thickness to be sure they are ready for winter – if selenium deficient, coat may not be able to grow thick for winter cold.
- Keep an eye on hay and grain to be sure there is no growing mold brought by winter moist weather.
- Have older goats? They are going to need special attention.
- If you have pregnant does who may have due dates during winter weather – be prepared with kidding stalls and kidding supplies. These does may also need some special care so watching them closely is advised. If you do have kid goats born in the cold weather, advice is “keep them warm” and the doe’s body warmth is sometimes not enough. We bottle feed all our kid goats and for the first 7 days of life they are in the house – if the kid goat seems chilled or your barn is cold and the heat lamp is just not keeping the area warm enough would advise bringing the kid goats inside – don’t lose them from the cold.
Winter can be hard on goats and other livestock. I like to take my morning cup (sometimes two) of coffee into the pastures after feeding/chores to be sure I am not missing something with any of the goats – this only takes a few minutes. If you see something about a goat that does not seem right, it is easier to start some sort of treatment now rather than leaving it to possibly get worse quickly.
If you have a veterinarian for your goats and have not talked to them for a while, might want to call and say hi to be sure they still have you as a client and/or that they still are seeing ruminants. You might also want to check on their night time/emergency practices. Sometimes these change with the seasons or a change in veterinarians. Most veterinarians that I know do not do night time emergency calls for goats (that is where your fully stocked first aid kit may come in handy). Know who to call if you can’t get a hold of a veterinarian.
Winter time might give you some extra time to start reading, so perhaps a good book on goat care.
Here’s hoping your winter season is safe and healthy for all on your farm, and, of course, that includes the goats. Remember, your livestock depends on you – please don’t let them down.
Hope you have a nice day!
Psalms 1:3 And he said be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bring forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
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