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Winter animal protection

At this time of the year our winter weather becomes a hot topic. How winter weather affects animals outside is an important consideration. Some folks think that a fur coat is all you need. Tell that to a Chihuahuas in the backyard when it’s 25 degrees out! Huskies and Samoyeds can tolerate extremely cold temperatures if already acclimated to winter weather.

If fur gets matted and wet, it loses its insulating qualities. Freezing rain conducts heated air away from the body many times faster than dry air. Keeping outdoor animals dry and warm is the name of the game. A shelter should face south, be windproof and insulated. Provide bedding such as straw, hay or a blanket for warmth. The straw or hay works better because it doesn’t mat down. It allows the animal to snuggle down. Keep bowls in an area that prevents water or food from freezing. Additional food and freshwater is also needed for cold temperatures. They are burning calories to stay warm.

Thump the hood of the car on cold mornings to send any animals to safety that are nestled down on the engine for warmth. Also check for anti-freeze leaks on your vehicles. As little as one teaspoon of anti-freeze is lethal to a cat. Anti-freeze or coolants have a sweet taste and attract pets.

Large animals such as cattle, horses, sheep and goats also need help withstanding adverse winter weather conditions. Cattle stay warm in the face of severe cold by increasing their heart rate, respiration and blood flow. This is why livestock need to increase their feed intake during the winter. Their rate of gain and feed efficiency will be reduced if their feed is not increased. Having livestock in good condition before severe winter weather hits is important. Fat reserves provide insulation and extra energy during the cold weather.

Good quality hay helps to compensate for increased energy needs. Animals that are ruminants, have compartmentalized stomachs, produce body heat through the fermentation of fiber, which produces heat while releasing energy. Feeding extra grain may not be the best thing to do. Providing extra good quality hay is the best feed for those really cold days.

Feeding livestock late in the day will increase rumination which will increase their heat production during the night. It may also increase the number of calves born during daylight hours.

Make sure adequate bunk space is provide so all the animals can feed. Divide your herd or flock into groups of similar nutritional requirements such as bred heifers. Inadequate nutrition among first calf heifers will result low birth rates and low milk production.

Adequate water is essential aid for digestion. A typical horse will consume eight to twelve gallons of water per day. Sheep and goats will drink up to four gallons per day. Water temperature above 40 degrees should be available to ensure adequate intake. Water should be available free choice throughout the day.

Keeping large animals out of the wind is just as important for large animals as for small animals. Most animals can handle wind chill above 20 degrees without much stress. Natural windbreaks may work but a clean, three-sided shed or barn with dry bedding works a lot better particularly if you have fall calves. The dry bedding helps provide insulation from the cold ground. Feeding inside a barn isn’t advisable unless adequate ventilation is provided. Ammonia concentrations can cause air quality problems. A round bale feeder can save up to 50 percent of fed hay. It keeps the animals from trampling and wasting the hay. Keeping them out of the mud is also important especially around water tanks and feed bunks. The Natural Resource Conservation Service can supply advice on that issue.

There are few things to remember about protecting animals during severe winter weather. Keeping them warm and dry and out of the wind is preeminent. Providing plenty of fresh water and increasing their intake will help keep them warm.

What’s going on in Extension?

Tree seedlings can be ordered from the Georgia Forestry Commission, (706) 845-4122.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office. UGA has a wealth of information for home and property owners.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 144 Sam Walker Drive, LaGrange. 30240 (706) 883-1675. Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m.