- February 16, 2015 at 2:00 pm #84958ethalernullParticipant
given the average temperatures in the region these days i figured i would bring up the topic of cold weather and animal care…much of what i do is based on limited experience and seeing other people’s barns/feeding setups but I find my horses to remain in good condition and temperament throughout the winter with a very simple run-in stall and about 3/4 acre fenced paddock with some windbreaks, feeding all hay 2x/day, 1 bale each, no grain and free choice salt and water.
people always say ‘they must be so cold…they don’t have a barn…you should get them blankets…’ and I say, ‘they seem happy and they’re getting fat, not skinny.’ with -35 wind chill last night i put some extra boards up on the shed, but first thing in the morning they were out in the open as usual waiting for the sun.
when is it really too cold for them and what are the risks? what kind of cold weather health problems have people experienced in their animals and what are some precautions? any basic rules of thumb for shelter or feed? i know everyone may have their own preference, just curious to hear some examples..February 16, 2015 at 10:32 pm #84964carl nyParticipant
I live in the north country of New York and it gets really cold here. If I told you that I had 55* below on three different occasions over the years you would call me a liar, so I won’t tell you. I had -27* last night and -29* the night before. I have lived here for almost 35 years and my horses are outside 24/7/365. The pasture is mostly woods and I don’t have a run-in shed, and never use blankets.One of my sons ponies got a cold once but that was in the middle of the summer, he will be 29 in a few months ( both my son and the pony ) ,so I guess it didn’t hurt him. Horses are not fat but in good shape. That’s just my observation, take it for what it’s worth.
carl nnyFebruary 17, 2015 at 7:29 pm #84971Brad JohnsonParticipant
I am located in central Vt, so not quite as cold as carl but similar thru the seasons. I also keep my horses out almost all year, but I do have a barn with stalls. Last year my pair was in about 5-6 nights total. I think an outside horse is a healthy horse. Horses come from central Asia, which is pretty cold, snowy, and windy in the winter. They are really hearty, but I do try to do several things to help them thru the winter. First, they need to be well fed, particularly when they are working during the winter months. My team eats 2-2.5 bales a day, plus grain on work days. I have had a horse get thin from the logging season and it was my fault – not enough food for the exertion level. Second, I like to have my team in a spot where they can get out of the wind. Trees, barn, run-in, trailer, hillside, whatever you have works. I only blanket when they are out on a job site and have no windbreak or when they are riding in the trailer on the highway in cold temps. I have had folks come to the farm and complain that our horses are out overnight in the winter. Almost always this is a person who has never owned horses and knows next to nothing about them, or they are riding hors owners who keep their horses in a box stall year round. My response is a kind but firm explanation of how horses temp regulate. Yes, a person would be cold out there but that is a human, not a horse. Third, I watch their body condition carefully to get a sense of how they are doing with the cold. A little extra hay or grain is good insurance, particularly for a working horse in the winter. This strategy has served me well so far. Others have thoughts?
-BradFebruary 17, 2015 at 8:15 pm #84974dominiquer60Moderator
Our horses and steers live out side most of the year with access to a couple of sheds. They do not have access to good sheltering woods and the sheds have their limits during blizzards. The steer’s shed is a great place for them but at this point I can’t even get to their shed to feed them out of the wind. Last year they stayed out all winter, but I have lost count of how many times we brought them in this year. We have 4 box stalls and 8 animals so we tie everyone up in their own corner and this allows us to make sure that everyone is getting ample food and water. We have been bringing them in during Blizzard or low wind chill conditions, our barn is open to the south and there is plenty of ventilation. Mostly though it is easy to sleep knowing that the wind doesn’t blow away half of every mouth full of hay that they take, and that the are well hydrated.
I agree with Brad that feeding them well and watching their condition plus attitude is key.
With thick coats I am always touching them to see what their condition is like underneath it all. Are they flabby? Can I feel too much rib? Even in this cold weather we have 2 older horses on limited (pint of grain) rations and the other 2 get considerably more and are not loosing weight, the younger mares and oxen have gotten fat and I have cut them back. Let there be no doubt about it, grain doesn’t make animals warm (old folk lore), water and a good quality hay fermenting in their bellies is the best way to keep them through the worst of it. On colder nights we feed extra hay to all, especially if they are not leaving a trace of the previous meal.
Attitudes are important, do they seem content and willing to work or partake in a general routine? If you “listen” they will tell you a lot about their lives. There is no doubt that as cramped as the quarters are, ours would rather be inside during the bad weather. We tried feeding them one questionable night, they ignored the hay feeder and just stood at the gate to be let in.
Like Brad, for us blankets are for when transporting, cooling down or resting at work.February 18, 2015 at 10:04 am #84978Ed ThayerParticipant
The three drafts here at our farm are always outside. We have two 12×12 box stalls and a separate 12×16 run in for them, but they hardly ever use them. They will stack themselves up against each other when it is really windy and stand next tot he shed.
I feed 1 bale to each horse a day and free choice water and a couple cups of grain. They also get a mineral block. They seem to be fine. I check them Dailey as Erika described to see it hey are keeping up their weight. They have all been idle for a month now with the heavy snow and drifting.
I did blanket mine for two of the blizzard like storms to keep the snow off of them but removed them immediately after the wind subsided. I am still conflicted about the blanket debate. They have never been shut in the barn overnight. Not sure how they would react to that?
Stay warm everyone,
EdFebruary 18, 2015 at 11:27 am #84980dominiquer60Moderator
I think that yours have it good Ed, to have the choice of where they would like to be, is ideal to me. If we had a similar situation to the scale of our herd, that would save us a lot of trouble keeping them all in the barn. But on the flip side we are making a lot of good manure to compost for the garden. There are pros and cons to all situations.
ErikaFebruary 18, 2015 at 12:18 pm #84981mitchmaineParticipant
I used to have a setup similar to eds. a pair of tie stalls in under a shed roof. I could tie them in to harness but most of the time they came and went at their leisure. the only time I blanketed them was if I had swetted them up, didn’t have time to walk them out and the sun was disappearing, and it was well below freezing. pull the blankets after an hour and brush them out and they were nice and dry
I have to say my horses were never as healthy as that situation. the only draw back was they entered under a shed roof and the runoff made an awful mess in the spring, and like Erika said hard to capture manure. I like to make sure they have lots of water in winter.
my fences are gone. gone. under the snow and the horses have bulled their way through and ripped up fencing. its a mess. so I have them tied in, and hook them every day for exercise. a couple times I just let them go. I think there is really no place for them to go but two nights ago a couple horses north of here were gone a day or two and ended up five miles from home. gotta go push some more snow and make room for tonights mess. keep the faith, spring is on its way.February 24, 2015 at 9:10 pm #85032Brad JohnsonParticipant
We are struggling with horse fencing here as well. The damn snow is so high! This has been a good cold winter but the snow is making things tough on us as well as the horses….
-BradFebruary 25, 2015 at 6:47 pm #85037Will StephensParticipant
Our rule of thumb is if they get wet to the skin I the winter, they come in. The last few weeks are not typical for us. Our winters have lots of 32-35 degree rain with high winds. Usually if it snows at least part of the snow event is rain. It has really been staying cold (5-25 degrees) so they have been able to stay out in m ore of that.
The funny part to me is the differences in my two horse. The former show Morgan prefers to be inside. It took him about a year to really get used to having to live like a horse (i.e.. outside)when he came to our farm and my Canadian hates being inside (but not as much s being alone outside!)
Like many of you, rub down and handling tell you how they feel about the temperature. My are more than ready to get back out in the morning if they have been in.
As a cautionary tale, the only time we get a sick horse is the Morgan if he is inside too much. This is also the first year I’ve over wintered pigs and helping a friend with a new sheep herd. They are all a lot tougher than the uninitiated would think.
In fact, we have been talking about building a three sided run in shed (this thread encourages me that we are on the right track with this thinking) so we can use the stall space in the barn more productively. Turns out living on the ocean the horses do a lot better outside than my steel equipment.
As for snow at fences, I actually ran a higher wire for the pigs on metal hold offs and I have used the front end loader to plow away from the fence line once or twice in 12 years.February 26, 2015 at 12:43 pm #85038JaredWoodcockParticipant
My Haflinger impressed me last year, he was out in the open with a small hedgerow and a couple of white pines for shelter, I didnt feed him hay until mid january because the pasture was stockpiled. The main reason I started feeding hay was he began to strip the trees. He kept thick layer of fat right through the winter. He is on my friends market farm this winter and he has plush quarters….
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