It is a fortune for humans that they can stay inside a warm and cozy homes and not worry about food and water. Livestock on the other side don’t have it as easy when the temperatures drop. You can care for your livestock by following the simple tips as provided hereunder.
Winter Management of Dairy Animals
- An animal’s nutrient requirements also go up as the temperature drops, especially in wet conditions followed by extreme cold. Feed more roughages (like hay, straws, etc.) or forages (berseem) to maintain the milk production and body heat of the dairy animals. Roughages are generally preferable over concentrates due to their lower cost and greater heat release during digestion. 25-30 kg of leguminous fodder like berseem with 10 kg straw can suffice need of a large animal producing 10 liters of milk.
- Additional quantum of grains like maize, wheat, oats, or readily available whole grains can be given to animals for meeting their energy requirements which generally increases during winters. 3 kg concentrates in the form of grains and oil cakes can meet the requirements of large animal for maintaining body temperature.
- It the grains are costly or not available, then the use of oil cakes such as mustard oil cake, cotton seed cake, etc. can be fed. Seed cakes suffice the protein requirements of the animal and boost production. Use oil cakes in the recommended quantities.
- Calves should be fed with more milk. Increase the feedings per day from two to three times while holding the amount per feeding the same.
- Hypothermia is a major risk for neonatal calves, and housing, feeding, and hydration are key considerations for minimizing hypothermia.
- During harsh winters, keep animals indoor but take care of the ventilation. Keep a vent open for air to pass through the animal house.
- In case of loose housing system, use curtains around the animal house. The curtains can be made from tarpaulin, bamboo, dry grass, paddy straw, jute bags, guinea bags, jute, etc.
- Chop the branches of the shady trees which will enhance the infiltration of sunlight in the animal shed. Sunlight will not only warm the animal house but also disinfect it at the same time. Any fluctuation in temperature may lead to respiratory problems, therefore try to maintain a constant temperature throughout day. It is better to bring animals out of their sheds when the sun shines but house them indoor before sunset as there is sudden fall of temperature during sunset.
- Check the temperature of drinking water. The water should not be frozen in any case. If the water is too cold, add some hot water to it for balancing the temperature and making it luke warm. Too cold or too hot water is detrimental for ruminal microflora. Supplied water should be heated to 10⁰C to ensure proper water intake.
- Young stock should be provided with protective clothing to prevent heat loss from the body and providing warmth which can be made from gunny bags, sacks, blankets, etc. During harsh winters, adult animals should also be covered for preventing heat loss.
- If the floor of the animal house is concreted, it should be covered with bedding usually comprising of straws which will provide insulating effect and prevent heat loss. Provide a bedding of about 4 to 6 inches to prevent heat loss due to conduction.
- Keep the floor and bedding of the animals dry using sand, woodchips, saw dust, straws, rice husk, etc.
- For better drainage of urine and other excretions, maintain proper alleys and drains. Wet floor may lead to diarrhea, fever, pneumonia, coccidiosis, hypothermia leading to death, etc. Young animals are at higher risk of developing disease due to wet floors.
- Avoiding overcrowding of the animals in shed as it leads to accumulation of ammonia which may hasten and enhance severity of respiratory problems especially pneumonia. Use recommended floor space (4m2 per animal) for housing animals.
- In Indian conditions, farmers usually lit fire in the animal house for heating the animal house. However it is a low cost technique but impetus should be given to the removal of gases out of the shed. Bukharis, heaters, bulbs, etc. can be used for heating sheds instead of burning firewood.
- For proper elimination of ammonia, livestock waste and other disease causing pathogens, it is advisable to clean shed twice a day. It will also enhance ventilation in the shed.
- Clean animals with cloth during winters or simply give them grooming once a day to remove dirt and dust. Avoid the usage of water. If there is imminent need of using water to clean animals, do it in the afternoon or hotter hours of the day. Clean animals immediately with cloth to prevent heat loss.
- Winters bring chapped and cracked skin to animals as well and udder being the most sensitive part. Care should be taken to dry the udder of dairy animal thoroughly and if the udder becomes chapped or raw, there are many commercial balms and moisturizers that are highly effective in healing and moisturizing udders. Lavender oil, calendula, peppermint oil, etc. can be used for making udder balm at home.
- Do not clip hairs during harsh winter. Clipping of hairs is advisable before and after winters.
- Deworm the animals at regular intervals. It is advisable to repeat deworming after 21 days of the first dose to prevent worms and their larvae from development.
Winter Management of Sheep and Goat
- Provide atleast 1m2 floor space for each sheep and goat. The floor should be non-slippery and should be covered with hay, husk, straws, etc. for insulation. Slippery floors leads to fracture of long bones in goats.
- In severe weather, animals can crowd together for warmth, but this increases the likelihood of injury and respiratory diseases. Monitor for these conditions and provide enough shelter for all animals to be together safely.
- Create windbreaks if the animals are grazing in the pasture. The windbreak may be a mud house, bushes or thatched shed. Animals that have no shelter from wind or wet conditions require up to 30 percent more feed per day than animals that have access to shelter from the wind. Constructing wind fences is also a good option when natural wind barriers are not available.
- Goats are the hardy animals possessing thick coat of hairs and require least to be look after. However, a night shelter should be constructed to house goats to prevent them from chilling winds.
- Make sure there is plenty of clean, dry bedding available and easy access to food and water.
- The feeding of sheep and goats start with luke warm water. Therefore, the water should be warmed before serving. Cold water may lead to digestive troubles.
- The addition of maize or oats in the ration can help increasing the energy content of feed. Make sure to slowly introduce new feed items to goats, since a sudden change in a ration can cause acidosis or bloat. Both conditions are potentially fatal to goats. Generally provide 200-250 gram of grains to sheep and goats for desired weight gain.
- Always provide a source of roughage in the form of grass or other types of hay. Alfalfa or berssem is a great course of protein and energy although care should be given to avoid feeding too much to bucks and wethers for fear of urinary calculi formation. Feeding excessive straws also leads to the formation of urinary calculi. Furthermore, always provide a good salt and mineral source.
- The breeding males should be given an extra allowance of concentrate feed (grains) during the mating period so that they may perform well.
- Sheep require more energy in the winter to help them maintain body temperature. The highest quality hays should not be fed during gestation. Utilize average- to good-quality hays during the early gestation period, when ewe nutrient requirements are low compared to late gestation and lactation.
- If animals are already consuming their maximum amount of dry matter and are still losing body condition, some roughage will have to be replaced with a more energy-dense feed, such as a grain. Make all ration changes gradually.
- If you have goats and feed is limited, consider putting non-lactating animals in good vegetation in the woods or other brushy areas. Remember to provide trace mineralized salt and protection from predators.
- Sheep and goats require atleast 4 hours of sunlight for keeping their body warm, therefore, exposure to sunlight in sunny days is important.
- Provide a bedding of about 2 to 4 inches to prevent heat loss due to conduction. Haystack beds are admired by goats as they are soft and warm. Haystack beds can be made by putting a layer of hay or straw on the floor and covering it with a cloth.
- Do not shear wool or hairs during winters. Shearing or clipping of hairs is advisable before and after winters. Hair sheep and wool breeds that have been recently shorn require more shelter than animals with longer wool.
- Sheep and goat farmers should take special care of the body condition score of the meat animals much before the onset of winters. Animals with better body condition score have better insulation and do not readily lose heat. Therefore, slowly increase the feed having high energy content as the winter progresses to increase the body condition score.
- Sheep and goats tend to gain more weight during winters, therefore, care should be taken to provide them with sufficient ration and pastures for grazing or browsing.
- Foot health is an extremely important part of sheep and goat care. The animals dwelling in muddy or wet conditions are susceptible to cracked and bruised feet, and can suffer from foot rot and warts. It can be more difficult to observe foot ailments during the winter season, thus, checking feet should be a part of winter chore routine. Use of zinc sulphate and copper sulphate for foot dips is advised.
- Trim the hooves in 3 months to prevent hoof problems. During winters, it is paramount to keep the barn dry and regularly trim the hooves to avoid problems such as foot scald or foot rot. Trimming hooves prevent mud from adhering to spaces in or on the hoof.
- Sheep and goats should be dewormed multiple times a year to guard against stomach and round worms. Deworming should be done in November or December, and in the cases of high parasite load, deworm again 30 days later to break the lifecycle of the stomach worms and round worms. Common dewormers approved are Fenbendezole and Morantel.
- Lice and mites are increasingly prevalent during the winter months. High infestations can cause anemia, poor coat and skin quality. Signs of lice infestation include, 1) frequent rubbing up against posts or fence, 2) scratching using the horns or teeth and in some cases, 3) dry flaky skin. Use of permethrins and pyrethrins is advisable as de-lousing agents. Ivermectin with recommendation from veterinarian can be used.
- The act of delivering offspring in sheep and goats generally takes place during late night to early morning in winters. Therefore, for newly born kids and lambs, keep a soft bedding in the farm at some dry and warm higher place so that immediately after birth, they may be taken care of.
- Newborns must be dried quickly after birth as hypothermia can set in quickly.
- Preparing haystack beds for neonates is advisable in winters as they are not able to maintain their body heat. A heat lamp in the shelter will provide extra heat for lambs or kids, but be sure it is safe, does not contact bedding or walls, nor is accessible to ewes or does that can chew the cord.
- Lambs and kids in winters are most susceptible to neonatal pneumonia and hence require strict vigil and care right from the time they are born. Providing dry and warm place can prevent lambs and kids from neonatal pneumonia.
- Reduce feed costs by selling unsound and inferior animals. Be especially critical of animals with no or poor teeth. Excess lambs should also be sold out during winters.
Winter Management of Horses and Donkeys
- A horse has only one stomach, while cattle have a four-part rumen to digest feed. Because of this, horses must eat small amounts of high-quality feed often to satisfy their nutrient requirements.
- Horses are much less efficient at digesting low-quality feeds than ruminants and should be given only good quality feeds, especially in harsh winter weather.
- Thin horses should be fed some supplemental grain in addition to good quality hay to assure enough energy to produce warmth, while a fat horse will require little or no increase in its diet.
- Maintaining ample water intake is the most critical part of ensuring the health of horses during cold weather. Horses prefer water at temperatures between 10-18°C. A normal, healthy horse will consume between 20-40 liters of water daily depending on environmental conditions and level of activity. Low water intake is directly related to the increased incidence of impactive colic.
- Body condition refers to the relative fatness of an animal and its assessment is important before the onset of winters. Equines with low body condition will have low insulation and require more energy for maintenance of body heat. Start feeding with energy rich diets like grains in autumn to improve body condition.
- The long winter hair coat serves as insulation by reducing the loss of body heat and provides the first line of defense against the cold. Its insulating value is lost when the horse becomes wet and/or is covered with mud. This is why it is important to provide a dry sheltered area in cold wet weather and regular grooming.
- In damp weather, be alert for rain rot and other skin problems. If unchecked, rain rot can result in hair loss and irritation to the horse.
- It is very important to keep the horse from losing its hair coat and body weight and approaching an energy deficient state (the horse must be properly fed).
- Horses will generally consume 2 to 3kg hay and 1.5kg grains per 100kg body weight. If a horse is not maintaining good body condition or is performing some work, grain should be added to the diet. The safest of the grains to be added in equine diet are oats. Small amounts of maize can also be added to increase the energy supply.
- Do not overfeed. Overfeeding can cause too much weight gain during the winter, and lead to laminitis and other health problems in the spring.
- Vitamin and mineral requirements are a year-round concern. All horses should have access to trace mineral salt to meet their electrolyte and trace mineral needs.
- While horses need shelter from cold winds, rain and snow; it is not necessary to keep them in a closed barn throughout the winter. Horses kept outdoors in the winter with access to a run-in shed, will generally have fewer respiratory disease problems than horses kept in poorly ventilated, heated barns.
- Show horses with shorter hair coats should be provided with blankets to save them from biting chills.
- Hooves should be given proper care as they continue to grow during winter months. The winters can break and crack hooves, therefore, remove the shoe and trim the hooves on regular basis.
- Horses should be checked for lice and mites. Give dewormers for internal parasites as well.
Winter Management of Pigs
- The pig pen should be spacious and should have the provision for sunlight to enter.
- The temperature of the pig pen should be maintained at 20⁰C. Use of heaters, bulbs and bukharis can maintain the temperature inside the pig pen.
- If the animals are staying in close proximity to one another, it indicates that the ambient temperature in pig pen is quite low and there is need to install some heating element in the pen.
- During long periods of low temperature in pig pens, the hypothermia occurs and cause great losses to pig farmers. The extremities of the animal turns bluish, body temperature falls, erection of body hairs and stiffness of the body is seen in case of hypothermia and before the hypothermia sets in, it is advisable to maintain the temperature inside a pig pen.
- Provide fresh ground water or luke warm water to animals. Refrain from providing pigs with tank water as it is very cold in winter season.
- Provide fibrous feed to animals like rice bran, wheat bran, maize gluten, etc. to animals which results in generation of heat which maintain body heat for longer periods of time. Please note that the ration should not be made from pure energy sources like maize in the ration as they provided in the summers.
- Provide green fodder like berseem, mustard, etc. as along with providing energy it also reduces smell in the feces.
- To prevent rain water entering into the shed, there should be a provision of overhang measuring 1m in length.
- It is advisable that for drainage of urine and feces, the floor and drains of the pen should have proper gradient so that dry and hygienic conditions can be made.
- The bedding should be 4 to 6 inches deep and can be made from straws and husk. This will insulate the floor and prevent the onset of hypothermia in animals.
- Using extra bedding like wheat or barley straw, or denser bedding that is not straight hay that can cause skin irritations, can also give animals additional warmth.
- Provide a run to the pigs so that they may not turn too fat due to lack of exercise.
- Place curtains along the farm to prevent heat loss. The curtains can be made from jute, gunny bags, tarpaulins, etc.
- Ventilation is extremely important to ensure fresh air is moving through the barn. When temperatures are high, even with an insulated barn, ensure good airflow moving through it or the temperatures will continue to increase more inside the barn walls.
- Owners who have open barns should consider laying a piece of plywood across the top of the pen, which would drop the ceiling of the pen. As heat rises, it would stay inside this part of the pen longer and the pig would stay warmer.
Winter Management of Poultry
- Poultry house should be designed in such a way to provide all the comfort required by birds during winter. An east-west alignment of a rectangular house provides a maximum gain of solar energy in winter. House should be designed in a way that maximum sun light enters the shed during day time.
- Before the winter sets in plug drafts, repair roof leaks, and be sure ventilation is adequate, preferably with vents near the top to keep air circulating.
- Birds should be protected from chilled winds, for this gunny bags should be hanged at the places from where the cold air enters. These gunny bags should be hanged down as soon as sunlight goes in the evening till the arrival of sunlight next morning.
- Birds release a lot of moisture in their breath and droppings which adversely affects their health, if there is restricted ventilation it causes ammonia build up in the air which causes respiratory problems. So, they need plenty of fresh air circulating around the house. For the purpose sliding windows are useful as they can be opened during day and closed during night. There should also be arrangement of exhaust fans to remove impure air.
- Around 6 inches of litter is needed in houses during winter. The litter gives warmth to the birds during winter. If litter management is proper, it will be felt quite warm when taken in hand. Litter can be made from straw, sawdust, or wood shavings to the floor. Not only will this provide insulation for the birds’ feet, but it will absorb feces better and is easier to clean.
- Low temperature causes more feed intake and higher oxygen demand. Therefore, when the weather gets colder, it is essential to give the chicken plenty of food as they require extra energy for maintaining body temperature.
- When bird eat more feed, along with energy, other nutrients are also consumed more which are actually not needed and they become a waste. To avoid this wastage during winter energy rich sources like oil/fat should be added to the diet or level of other nutrients may be reduced keeping the energy at same level.
- In winter number of feeders should be increased as compared to summer. Feed should be available to the bird whole of the day.
- Provide continuous supply of fresh and clean water to birds. If water is cold enough, then it should be given to chicken after adding hot water to it, so that the water comes to normal temperature.
- In areas where the temperature falls below freezing temperature, blockage of pipe is a big problem, therefore, routine inspection of pipe line should be done to avoid blockage of water.
- Many of vaccines/medicine/vitamins are given to poultry through water and as the water consumption of bird is reduced during winter season, therefore, care should be taken that waterers are removed few hours prior to watering and ample amount of medication is added so that each bird gets benefit of medicine/vaccine or other supplements.
- Opt for a heated water bowl or heated bird bath if water dishes may freeze. Ducks may also need occasional tubs for bathing, but they do not need daily access to deeper water if freezing is a problem.
- If the birds huddle together in the farm, this indicates that the ambient temperature of the farm is low and heaters, bulbs and bukharis should be used to increase the temperature.
- Provide ample floor space to the birds. Check that birds have enough roosting space inside the shelter, and if necessary, add more shelves or perches.
- In layer farms, add a supplemental light if you want to increase egg production throughout the winter. Ducks and chickens need 16 hours of good light to be stimulated to lay eggs, and while winter laying will still be lower than at the peak of summer, a light source can help.
- Be sure there is enough activity to keep the birds healthy by providing a scratch area for them to visit and brushing snow off different roosts and perches.
- Consider rubbing chickens’ wattles and combs with petroleum jelly to provide a barrier against the cold and protect them from frostbite. This may need to be reapplied regularly, but can be effective without harming the birds.
Vaccinations Advised for Livestock Preferably in Winter Season
|For Cattle and Buffalo|
|Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)||6-8 weeks||10 ml s/c||6, 9 or 12 months|
|Rinderpest||All ages||1 ml s/c||Every year|
|5 ml s/c
2.5 ml s/c
|Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP)||All ages||0.2 ml Intradermal||Annual|
|Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)||Adult||5 ml s/c||Annual|
|Rinderpest||Adult||1 ml s/c||Annual|
|5 ml s/c
2.5 ml s/c
|5 ml s/c
2.5 ml s/c
|Vaccination of pigs and poultry depends on the age and time of rearing and should be administered accordingly.|
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