When Winter arrives and temperatures drop below freezing, many people are concerned about the welfare of farm animals during this extreme cold. Please be assured, in most cases, farmers are great stewards of their animals and they are in good hands. There are always exceptions, but those are not the rule. A farmers’ livelihood depends on bringing healthy, well cared for animals to market.
The key to keeping animals healthy and comfortable is to ensure they have extra calories from high quality sources of food. This means that farmers will up their animals’ feed rations in winter. They need fresh water and shelter from adverse weather. But did you know, that’s not necessarily a barn? Depending on the overall, holistic management a farmer uses, a row of hedges or shrubs can be adequate, as are a 3-sided structure, quonset, woodlot, hoop house or open movable chicken tractors.
This article from an OSU farm animal expert talks about the steps that farmers take to increase feed rations to match seasons.
This article talks about equine care and common mistakes in winter care.
It is important to distinguish animals in their perspective groups – we have pets, livestock/farm animals, and wildlife. Pets that are not bred to be outdoors should be brought inside in dangerous weather conditions. Most livestock breeds are meant to be outside, just as are wildlife. Farm animals are born and raised in a myriad of ways, and quite commonly outside like deer and other wildlife. Heritage breeds of livestock are known for their resilience in the climates that they evolved in. Therefore, many small farmers choose heritage breeds to align with their farm management choices. Sheep, horses, pigs, poultry, and goats can all handle the cold weather just fine with some extra care.
The farmers I work with care deeply about the animals that they raise and do everything they can to ensure that they’re kept safe in extreme weather conditions. Having Farm animals outside during winter is completely acceptable if the animal is well cared for, gets exercise, has shelter from the wind, has lots of healthy food to keep it warm, and has regular fresh water.
I’m personally looking forward to warmer days for myself, meanwhile, I think I’ll up my calories too.