Local temperatures are expected to reach record lows this weekend, a chilling reminder that occasionally we do experience real winter weather in Florida. Farmers will be working around the clock to protect their cold sensitive crops, while homeowners take care to keep their garden and landscape plants from suffering freeze damage. Livestock and horse owners may also want to consider taking additional precautions to assure that their animals remain comfortable and healthy as the mercury drops.
Nature has provided cattle, horses, goats, and other hoof-stock with natural fur coats that offer excellent insulation against the cold. While it is a common practice to blanket horses when we, their owners, are cold, unless the animal is body clipped this is generally not necessary. It is important to assure that animals do have access to a windbreak such as a stall, run in shed, trees, or a hill side etc. In the absence of a windbreak, the ability to huddle as herd and share body warmth can serve the same function. Providing access to hay helps animals generate their own body heat as they ingest and digest the roughage.
Water is the most important nutrient for all living creatures, and livestock are no exception. When temperatures drop, some animals may be disinclined to drink leading to dehydration. As a result, horses can be more prone to impaction colic on cold nights. Heated water buckets are commercially available and may be a viable option if you know your animals are prone to not drinking on cold nights. Feeding electrolytes may also help to encourage water consumption. On very cold nights, like we are expecting this weekend, it is vital that you check water tanks first thing in the morning and break up any ice layers that may have formed so animals can drink.
Stay warm out there friends, we will be back to complaining about the heat and humidity before you know it!