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Wrapping pigs in a blanket


As winter has finally arrived, it’s time to talk about our outdoor friends. As good pet and livestock owners, it is our responsibility to reduce the stresses that winter can bring to our animals. Most animals have a natural resistance and can withstand the winter with great success but it is still a stressful time for the animals.

I want to cover the best practices for winter weather animal care and then of course, at what point is it do you start “wrapping the pigs in blankets,” so to speak.


For outdoor cats and dogs

Provide a quality water source, frequently changing out to prevent freezing or use heated outdoor water bowls. Refresh the water regularly and see that the heated bowls are secured to avoid tipping and electrical hazards. Shelter the water and food sources if you can.

Provide a separate shelter just for your pet. It can be an old storage tub, made out of some scrap lumber, or a dog house. Make sure that the shelters for the pets are not too large for the size of pet, it is important for the shelter to keep the body heat in but also no be too large of a space for the body heat to maintain. Insulate shelters with straw, sawdust, or old pillow cases filled with newspaper. Old bedding should not be used, they absorb the body heat and chill your pet. If you insulate the shelter, only insulate the walls and floor, do not install above insulation.

What is the extreme, at what temperature is it time to bring them inside?

There are many factors into this decision, some pets are conditioned to colder temperatures, the pet’s size and weight, age and health are factors of how long they can or cannot stand the cold. If it is your dog’s first winter, it may take some conditioning, keeping them in the unheated garage on the first couple of nights under 40F or 32F. Main concern is if your pet is wet and cold. If any form of wetness that soaks through, the pet’s fur should be tended to. General rule of thumb for temperature alone is once below 20F, it is important they have a warm and dry shelter, and if not, they will need to be brought inside.


For Livestock

As with the cats and dogs, water is most important. It is necessary to regulate water temperatures and maintaining a good quality of water to your livestock throughout the freezing temperatures. You can regulate water temperatures with water tank heaters or by checking and replacing the water often. As for the animals staying warm, most have their own coats that do an excellent job. Providing a warm shelter out of the elements for resting and sleep still is necessary.

Supplement forages and increase feed to get them through the cold and high energy burning days to stay warm is also recommended. Try to avoid mud as much as possible, one way is to rotate pasture feeding locations. Keep the sick, young and nursing, and near-due-mothers sheltered until they have recovered enough with gained strength to brave the outdoors again.

What is the extreme for livestock?

Well not everybody can come into the heated house when it gets too cold, can they? Provide the most shelter you can when you have to. Freezing rain or super cold windchills are the extremes we are most likely to face. Otherwise, keep the best shelter for the sick, young, and near giving birth, and nursing mothers and young.

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Upcoming classes:

• Dec. 7, Tippecanoe County PARP

• Jan. 18 to Feb. 8, The Power of Negotiation: Land Leasing Strategies for Midwestern Ag Women is a four-part extension workshop produced in collaboration between women in agriculture programs in Indiana, Kansas and Nebraska. It will focus on the basics of land management, leasing and conservation for both landlords and tenants. Open to all.

• Feb. 7 to May 9, Master Gardener Class

For more information about my upcoming classes, please call or email me.


Tricia Herr is the Montgomery County Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resource. The office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at triciaherr@purdue.edu.


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