Salute to Idaho Agriculture: Wintering animals

When colder weather arrives, livestock is quite resilient, not needing to be brought indoors or over-cared for
Animals can face health issues in severe weather
Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 5:17 PM MST
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Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — A white Christmas can be a dream scenario, especially next to a fireplace curled up with a cup of cocoa.

But, for livestock, the colder weather can mean many added health risks.

“Colic is a big one for horses. Death from dehydration and freezing, hypothermia,” said Dr. Erin Crawford of Sawtooth Equine Service.

When colder weather arrives, livestock is quite resilient, not needing to be brought indoors or over-cared for. But Dr. Crawford does say one step is very important when ensuring your animals remain healthy throughout the winter months.

“Making sure they have an adequate amount of feed,” Dr. Crawford said. “When the temperatures drop, horses and cattle require more feed to stay warm.”

“They heat from the inside out because of how they digest their food. So, it’s important they get more food in the winter than they do in the summer to stay warm.”

That food, however, has been in short supply this year. Drought conditions across the state have led to decreased supply of hay, which, in turn, has meant skyrocketing prices.

“Probably the biggest problem is underfeeding in certain situations,” Dr. Crawford said. “The cost of hay was really high because of the drought, so that will probably be something that a lot of producers are going to face. A lot of smaller producers, maybe, didn’t get enough because the cost was so high.”

Dr. Crawford says the livestock owners she works with have been proactive in their planning, making sure they will be able to make it through the winter without any major issues.

“I know for a lot of the cattle producers they were good about making sure they had enough hay to get through the winter,” Dr. Crawford said. “They were also adjusting their herd size accordingly so they didn’t have as many animals to feed through the winter.”

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