How to Keep Farm Animals Warm in Winter

cows inside the barn

It’s winter again. While you and your family may have made the necessary preparations to keep yourselves warm this winter, can the same be said about your livestock? In this article, we list ways to keep your livestock and other farm animals warm.

  1. Shield them from the Elements

If the land where your livestock grazes has no natural windbreaks—such as trees, consider investing in a portable windbreak. Some livestock prefers to be outside even in the most inclement weather, so windbreaks provide temporary but valuable shelter for warmth.

  1. Provide Adequate Housing

Your livestock needs access to shelter, like a barn or shed. Their shelter must be strong enough to keep the wind and snow out, but still have ventilation to avoid moisture buildup and allow for air to circulate.

  1. Supply Lots of Bedding

Bedding for livestock is usually sawdust, hay or wood shavings. Ensure the bedding is dry, and replace it after a couple of days, or more often when there are young or newborns. Newly-born livestock should be prioritized, as they are vulnerable to frostbite from the amniotic fluid if they aren’t dried off quickly enough.

  1. Provide Heat Sources

Add heating to your livestock shelters. A heating system can be as simple as filling watertight, chew-proof plastic tubs with hot water and placing them in the shelter, although many farmers install industrial heating systems. Heating systems with under-floor heating cables are preferable since they don’t blow hot air and kick up allergens, or have exposed heat sources that could ignite the animals’ bedding. Heat lamps may seem an attractive alternative but can be knocked over by the animals or become covered in dust—either of these scenarios can cause a fire.

portrait of a man in the barn

  1. Mind the Mud

Mud is great for livestock to keep cool during the summer, but it’s not great for keeping warm in winter. Animals expend more energy when walking in mud and keeping warm, so they need more to eat. When farm animals or livestock get muddied, their winter coat’s insulating properties are also lessened. To help your animals keep warm, try to keep the mud on your property to a minimum, and move the feeding areas regularly. Animals standing in mud can develop foot rot or thrush. Worse, parasites can transfer to your livestock through the mud, making your animals sick.  ;

  1. Increase their Protein

Another way to help your livestock keep warm is to give them more protein-rich food or enhance their diet with protein-rich supplements like kelp. The more protein you give livestock, the more body heat they generate.

  1. Be Like Noah

Remember the biblical story of Noah keeping pairs of animal in his ark? For large livestock, don’t let them clump up as a herd if they need to be sheltered, but don’t separate them, either. Keep cattle, goats, pigs or other large livestock in pairs or triplets, so they can huddle and share their body heat.

  1. Let Their Instincts Guide Them

Livestock by nature will seek warm spots on colder days. Make sure their shelter has areas that allow direct sunlight and is free from drafts, so they can have natural hot spots to huddle or hunker down.

Short of letting your livestock into your home, these are the most common methods you can use to keep your livestock warm over a cold spell. Some plans are simple; others require more investment of time and resources. But remember, by taking care of them, they take care of you—these animals are a significant source of your livelihood.

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