Smallholders: What to check your animals for this winter

Smallholders: What to check your animals for this winter

The clocks have turned back, nights are drawing in and the temperature’s dropping. What do I need to check my animals for?

With any type of animal the following is applicable:

  • A healthy animal that is well fed and dry will cope with any amount of cold weather.
  • Make sure there is a rain and windproof shelter available. This does not need to be totally draught free. Some ventilation is needed to stop condensation and pneumonia. As long as there is plenty of dry bedding for the animals to lie on they will be fine.
  • Make sure the water supply has not frozen. Fresh water is essential.
  • Make sure there is plenty of good quality palatable food available. In the case of ruminants make sure there is hay at all times.
  • Mineral supplements, either bricks or buckets for ruminants and liquid multivitamins weekly for poultry, are advisable.
  • If you have old animals or ones that are losing fleece or feathers then extra bedding or a jacket may be necessary.

Apples and Acorns
Apples are fine in moderation, but a big fall of apples or acorns, especially after an autumn storm, can cause problems. Maybe put a fence around any tree that may be a risk or pick up the fallen fruit.

Autumn and winter is the time we start seeing more problems with lice and mites. These are generally not easy to spot on your animals, and in the case of mites often can only be seen with a microscope. Things to look out for in the case of sheep, goats, etc is itching, hair loss and possible sores. In the case of poultry you may see dirty, greasy feathers, lethargy, inappetence and birds generally off colour. If you think your smallholding may have a parasite problem please contact us for further advice.

Respiratory diseases

The biggest problem we see as farm vets this time of year is infectious respiratory diseases, although this is generally more common in bigger, more intensive farms. Healthy animals are better able to fight off infection especially if they are not over-stocked. Allow for some air flow in the sheds but avoid drafts, and keeping bedding dry will go a long way. If you do see any stock appearing lethargic, off food, increased rate or effort of breathing, or discharges from the nose or eyes, then please contact us as they will probably need to be medicated.

Adam Reeves and Chris Woodruff

Related SEV Branch