As the of cold of winter continues, a local animal practitioner is advising owners to ensure their horses and cows have the necessary means of staying warm.
Dr. Vanessa Graydon of Graydon Veterinary Services in St. Pierre says one key way to keep your livestock warm is by feeding them the proper nutrients: a solution made more difficult by last fall’s shortage and poor quality of hay.
“The pastures were really dry at the end of last year so there is a shortage of hay and a lot of producers are having to look at alternative methods and different additives,” comments Graydon. “In this kind of predicament, I recommend that they work closely with feed nutritionist to make sure they are maximizing feed use.”
Maximizing digestible energy is especially important during cold weather spells like the one that recently swept over the southeast. Graydon notes that cows, in particular, generate a lot of heat through digestion, which makes proper nutrients essential in their maintaining of a comfortable temperature.
Graydon adds that a lot of livestock are pregnant this time of year and so consume more food making both the quality and quantity of feed top priorities.
While animals do not typically get the common cold, Graydon notes that poor nutrition combined with freezing weather can amount to illness. When an animal’s body is focused on keeping warm but does not have the food resources to properly do so, the immune system can be suppressed as a result.
“Then, if they are exposed to viruses during this time you can have small outbreaks of runny noses, coughing, or difficulty breathing which may require antibiotics.”
However, food is not the only thing keeping farm animals warm this time of year, and Graydon stresses that all animals should have some kind of shelter where they can seek respite from the wind on bitterly cold days.
High winds tend to be the biggest contributor when it comes to feeling cold weather and while many farmyards have trees or brush that provide ample shelter, Graydon insists that no animal should be forced to remain in the open. Where no natural barriers exist, she encourages owners to create their own makeshift shelters out of wood or bales.
“An animal's extremities, like their ears and utter tips, can experience frostbite," warns Graydon, "so in the really cold weather it is good to bed them deeper and make sure they are not laying on the cold snow.”
Despite these tips, Graydon admits that most farm animals are not ill-suited to be outside during the winter months, she merely feels there are things that can be done to keep them healthier and happier.
“All those ways we would take care of ourselves, I would hope people would do for their animals as well.”