We’ve been seeing some very cold temperatures lately, and it looks like some heat may be coming. We bundled them up and raised the temperature of our homes in an effort to stay warm. Maybe add an extra blanket to bed at night or wear heavier pajamas. Well, being human and having more empathy and intelligence than other types of animals, we also need to think about our furry friends, our pets, and our livestock. They are often in situations where they cannot properly take the measures they need to tackle a severe cold. These foods will be better for cold weather and good shelter. So here are some suggestions to address these issues for them.
According to UK equestrian specialist Bob Coleman: “The average horse, with a lower activity level, should eat between 1.5% and 2% of its body weight in feed per day to maintain its weight. Feed requirements increase in winter, as horses use more calories for heating.
He recommended providing more hay and making sure the horses had shelter to get out of the wet, inclement weather. Fields with natural or man-made windbreaks, which are different from a barn, are usually sufficient. Poorly managed sheds, combined with poor ventilation, may actually hamper efforts to improve environmental conditions.
Horses should have access to clean, unfrozen water. Coleman said to check often to make sure the water sources are open. A decrease in water intake affects dry matter intake.
All livestock owners should ensure that the animals have dry bedding and forage to survive during cold periods. Animals need more energy in the colder months, which means they need high-quality grain and feed.
Owners should consider separating smaller, thinner horses that may not have the same internal insulation as older adapted horses and supplement them accordingly or provide high quality feed, if available. Horse owners can use these strategies and separate the animals according to the degree of body condition.
Energy or calories are essential in cold weather. If the protein level in the feed is appropriate, do not make supplement decisions based on the protein level; Instead, buy the more expensive calories. This can be done with additional small grains or mixed feeds with high energy values.
If you are interested in having a ration formulated to handle the frigid temperatures of your horses, based on your hay, let me know. It would be better if you took the hay test, but if you don’t, we can still get an actionable ration, according to Dr. Pope.
In cattle, as in horses, the basics must be met. These include shelter, dry bedding, water and feed.
Ambient temperature or air can affect the amount of dry matter that livestock will consume. Producers need to either increase the amount of dry matter you eat or increase the amount of energy your livestock consumes daily. That’s according to Dr Jeff Lemkoller, a UK beef specialist.
Producers need to constantly monitor the conditioning of their animals’ bodies throughout the winter.
Feeding poor quality hay may not provide enough energy to keep a pregnant cow entering the third trimester. Consider doing a hay test so that you don’t “starve your livestock with a full stomach.” There are some feeds, especially hay, that actually require more energy to digest than animal feeds. Kind of like lettuce in humans.
Producers should consider separating younger, thinner animals from older, better-insulated animals, and giving them more energy supplements.
Again, as with horses, livestock must be given access to windbreaks, sheds, or ventilated sheds.
The hairy coat acts as insulation in the home – trapping warm air and helping to keep the animal warmer. Wet or muddy hair does not insulate as well and increases body heat loss. A rainfall of 0.1 inch or a tenth of an inch can greatly increase heat loss by exfoliating the hair. Masking thickness, covering fat, and other factors can also have an effect on insulation factors and animals may be exposed to cold stress.
The low critical temperature value for livestock is the lowest temperature or wind chill that does not require additional energy to maintain core body temperature. Animals maintain core body temperature by increasing metabolism, which leads to increased heat production, as well as other strategies to conserve heat, such as reducing blood flow to the extremities, shivering and increasing intake.
It takes more energy to fuel the body to increase the core body temperature. Kind of looking at it is like fueling a charcoal stove. With little coal in it, the stove doesn’t produce as much heat. Add charcoal and you will get a larger fire, and therefore more heat.
All of the above can apply to sheep and goats. They need shelter from wind and rain and more energy foods to help stoke inner fires to stay warm.
In extremely cold conditions, pets need extra care as well. If possible, when temperatures drop and winds intensify, try to bring pets in. Even if they are not in the house, the garage, tool shed, or some structure can be a real lifesaver for them.
If you have to leave them outside, try to get the pets to go home. If this is your case, make sure you give them a warm mattress to lie on, not just a wooden floor or worse, the floor. These hard, cold surfaces absorb warmth from their bodies.
Try putting straw or hay indoors. This gives a nice insulating effect. And always face the door of the house away from the direction of the prevailing winds.
Try to have some kind of cover on the door. Perhaps something like a swing door made of heavy fabric or an old piece of industrial belt. If this is not possible, add more hay to the house. This will allow them to push some into the hole and reduce the air entering.
But, with the foregoing, do not make the house air tight, trying to keep warm in it. There should be some air circulation so that they can breathe fresh air.
Make sure to check their water often. We all know that in real cold weather, water freezes quickly. So we may need to give them fresh water several times a day. Give them only plain water that you normally give them, and do not give them hot water to drink.
Even if they are in a garage, if it is not heated, some of the same problems can be in place. So give them a blanket, an old towel, or again some straw to put them on. And check the water often to make sure it doesn’t freeze.
You may want to change the food you feed temporarily. You may want to give them a higher energy pet food, especially if they are kept outside or in an unheated structure. Fat is a good source of energy for pets. Your pet store should be able to help you identify these foods.
For dogs, look for food that may be hypersensitive to dogs such as terriers or hounds. They can only have a higher energy content to meet the daily needs of those breeds. For cats and dogs, there are foods that are advertised as high energy. So look for those. When the temperatures begin to rise with the arrival of spring, you can return to your usual pet foods.
If you would like more information, contact us at your local extension office. In Boyd County, call (606) 739-5184 or visit us at 2420 Center St. in Catlettsburg.
LYNDALL HARNED IS BOYD COUNTY EXTENSION AGENT
agriculture and natural resources.