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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

The North Texas weather can have some pretty dramatic changes this time of year. Temperature swings are not uncommon from now to early spring. Animals may have a tough time coping with these changes. Horses are especially susceptible to developing an impaction colic when the weather changes and during cold weather. Be sure your animals always have access to water all winter long to help avoid impaction colic.

Rains and alternating colder and warmer temperatures, means we’re in mud season now. For your dogs and cats, be sure to check their paws every time they come in the house. Use a warm, wet towel to gently clean the mud off their feet. Be sure to also look at the bottom of their feet at least once a day to look for dried mud stuck between their toes, or any cuts or cracks in their pads. For dogs and cats that live outdoors, be sure they have a warm, dry place where they can get out of the mud. This may be a dog house with a fresh bed of fluffy straw, or even a corner of a garage or barn with a dog bed or warm blanket. If you are using blankets, be sure to check them every day. A wet blanket will make your pets even colder than no blanket at all.

“In addition to bedding and basic housing needs, my next concern for animals is ventilation in the winter weather” says the new Tarrant County Texas A&M AgriLife Agriculture and Natural Resource Extension Agent Fred M. Hall.  In many cases, especially in backyard poultry coops, I see the buildings are tightened up to keep the facility warmer and moisture is condensing and dripping off the ceiling onto the birds.  If you do tighten up your coop, make sure that there is proper airflow through the building so that birds are able to stay healthy when they are confined in the coop.  If the facility is 100 percent enclosed, like many small animal shelters, make sure there is a steady exchange of air to help keep livestock healthy and decrease the buildup of ammonia. I often see this problem in youth project buildings where lambs and swine are confined.

Larger livestock are a different story. It is impossible to keep pastures free of mud this time of year, especially in heavily used areas around water troughs or at feeding locations. Try to include an area of “higher ground” in your pastures, so the animals do have a place where they can go to get out of the mud, at least temporarily. If you have a barn or a shed where your livestock can go to get out of the rain, wind, and mud, that’s even better. All animals need some kind of shelter. Technically, all livestock need is a windbreak. They need a place where they can get out of the wind; this could be a building, a three-sided shed, or even a tree line. Ideally, livestock will have access to some type of shelter with a roof so they can get in out of the rain and snow; however, just because they have a place to get out of the rain doesn’t mean they will always use it!

Animals will burn more calories in cold weather to stay warm. Be sure that they have to eat, most cattle, horses, and small ruminants can have free access to hay all day long. You may need to supplement your animals’ diet with some kind of concentrate – cracked corn, oats, sweet feed, or a complete pelleted feed.

Water troughs can freeze as the temperatures start to drop. Be sure to check all your animals’ water at least once a day as the temperatures go below zero. Any time there is a layer of ice on top of the water trough, it needs to be broken so the animals can get to the fresh water. You may want to consider a submersible water heater to keep the water troughs from freezing if the weather stays below freezing for more than a few days.

For more information contact your local Extension office; in Tarrant County the number is 817.844.1946 or on-line at:



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