Helping Your Animals Weather the Winter
Helping Your Animals Weather the Winter
Whether you are caring for livestock and farm animals or the cuddly pets in and around your home, protecting your animals from the chill of winter is crucial. A few early preparations will ensure a healthy and happy winter season for both you and your animals.
Keeping your animals warm and dry is the top priority, so be sure each animal has adequate shelter. For cats, it is recommended that they remain inside the home for the duration of the cold weather even if they are allowed to roam your property at other times of the year. Dogs will require frequent walks and outside playtime, but they should otherwise also remain inside as much as possible. If your dog lives outside, you will need to provide a dry, draft-free shelter large enough to allow the dog to move around but small enough to retain as much body heat as possible. Bird owners may want to invest in cage covers to help keep their feathered friends from feeling the chill.
Get the Feed You Need
Eliza Walton is the owner/operator at Martin’s Feed Mill in Coburn, PA. Martin’s carries everything you’ll need to keep your farm and house animals happy, healthy and warm during these frigid months.
“In the winter it is very important for animals to get enough nutrients to meet their increased energy demands to stay warm,” Walton says. “If the maintenance needs of the body aren't met, growth, production, reproduction and the immune system can all suffer.”
Not only does Martin’s carry everything you could ever need for your animals, they even have an extra trick up their sleeve - they can make the feed you’re after right on site!
“We have feeds for all species, and if we don't have what you are looking for, we can make it!” Walton notes. “Whether it's a complete feed or a supplement, we can help you find the right product to keep your favorite animals happy and healthy. Don't forget about the birds this winter! We have seed mixes, suet and feeders to keep your wild friends happy too.”
Shelter for farm animals must also be kept dry and free of drafts. For cows and horses, a barn filled with clean, dry hay is a great option. If there is no barn available, creating a simple shed or lean-to will allow the animals to escape the wind, rain and snow. Chickens will thrive best when kept together in community in a coop built off the ground to alleviate any moisture build-up.
“Always provide your animals with shelter to get out of the weather,” Walton says. “Some animals are perfectly happy to be out in a snowstorm, but they should have the option to get out of the weather if they want.”
According to Walton, water is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer, so providing fresh, clean water that is not frozen is important.
“We offer lots of options for winter watering like floating and drain-plug de-icers for stock tanks,” Walton says. “We have heated water buckets for horses and calves, as well as heated water option for pets, poultry and rabbits.
Clean, dry bedding can also help an animal conserve energy and stay warmer.
“We have bedding products like shavings, bedding pellets and straw,” Walton says.
In the winter, all animals burn more energy trying to stay warm, which means they may require additional food and water. Household pets may need an extra bit of their regular food to fuel their winter bodies. Also, make sure any outside water bowls are replenished often and do not become frozen over. If you are tending cows and horses, make sure there is plenty of clean, dry hay available and that no mold has crept into the hay, which could be hazardous or even deadly.
Exercise Is Beneficial
A little intentional exercise is also a good idea to help your animals stay warm during a cold snap. Egg production will suffer if chickens are continually cooped, and larger farm animals require activity to maintain peak physical condition, so allowing a bit of outside time is a good idea. Many dogs often enjoy a walk in the cold, so some pet parents allow their dog’s coat to grow long for extra warmth during the winter months. If your pup is short-haired, a doggie sweater may be an adorable solution to help keep him toasty on his walks.
Martin’s carries a multiple high-quality brands of dog food, the types your best friend will love.
“Here at Martin’s, we carry three different brands of premium dog food: Red Flannel, Exclusive, and Infinia.,” Walton says. “Within these lines there are options for all breeds, ages, health concerns and budgets!”
Martin's doesn’t stop with just dog food though - they also carry a variety of treats like biscuits, bones, and toys. Martin's is now carrying ZoGuard Plus flea and tick prevention as well!
A few potential winter dangers also need to be considered. Keep all antifreeze away from pet areas and be sure to clean up any spills immediately. Rock salt can also be toxic to pets, so make sure you wipe your dog’s feet after a walk on salted sidewalks to avoid ingestion of the salt. Some farmers grow concerned about poaching during winter months, so posting appropriate signage designating your property as a protected area may help dissuade potential poachers and keep your livestock safe.
Winter can be an unforgiving season. Taking the time to ensure your animals have the proper shelter, food, exercise and attention to stay healthy and safe through the cold months will make all the difference as the storms of winter begin to blow in.