Hard to believe though it may be, fall will be here in just a few days. Following close behind is Daylight Saving Time. The days are growing shorter and precious time working around the farm will be reduced before you know it. Because of this, it is important to get ready for winter now while time is still on your side.
The official start of winter is still a few months away, but temperatures are already dipping into the 30’s and 40’s overnight in many parts of the country. Even without it actually being winter, it will soon be plenty cold enough to alter farm routines and make it important to step up our animal care efforts. There are many things we can and should accomplish now while the weather is still decent, but where is the best place to start?
One of the most important things to provide when the weather gets cold is adequate shelter. Animals need to be able to get out of the elements as needed in order to maintain continued good health. Though many livestock animals are hardy enough to spend much of their time outside, some of the smaller animals are going to need to be kept indoors to prevent predation and succumbing to extreme cold. If you have shelters that need work or additional insulation and bedding to add for providing and retaining warmth, now is the time to mark that off the list.
Shelter for animals is essential, but so is shelter for feed and hay, both of which you will need extra to get through the cold. Make plans now to not only purchase the additional feed and hay you will need, but also make a plan to store it. Since animals will burn more calories in an effort to stay warm during the colder months, they will need to be fed more to compensate for this and keep them at a healthy weight. Since it is not always possible to run right out and buy hay at a moment’s notice, you may have to stock up ahead of time and it is necessary to store your purchases in places that are dry and inaccessible to wildlife. The same goes for bedding which also needs the same protections. This comes back to securing structures that may need work while there is still time so bedding, hay, and feed can be stored optimally.
Another big issue farmers face in winter is maintaining a stable water supply. As temperatures dip below freezing, stock tanks can freeze, leaving animals with nothing to drink. This is a problem because animals need a constant water supply and hauling water to a herd of cattle all winter is a big job. Be sure to insulate exposed pipes and place heat tape on spigots. It is also worthwhile to consider heated buckets for watering as these will keep water from freezing. The only drawback is the cord to plug these buckets in which may be tempting for some animals to chew and may therefore become a fire hazard.
Remember, too, that as the daylight hours shift and grow shorter, you work day will also need to be adjusted. With these changes upon us, it is not only your body that needs time to get acclimated to earlier feeding times but also your farm animals. Barns with electricity may still allow some flexibility, but overall there is some adjustment that will need to be made. The fact of the matter is that artificial light is not substitute for inspecting animals in broad daylight for signs of illness or injury. Go ahead and start gradually adjusting your feeding and care schedules little by little until you’re where you want to be for the winter months and your stock has made the adjustment as well.
Although winter can put a damper on a lot of things, giving both farmers and farm animals alike a case of the blues, making your preparations now as opposed to at the last minute is a way to take some of winter’s sting away. The sooner you establish a cold weather care routine and have all your supplies on hand as well as repairs or updates made, the better you will feel about the temperatures that are coming. Go ahead and make the transition as easy as possible for all involved by getting it out of the way now and giving yourself peace of mind for when winter arrives.