Monday, 12 January 2015

Animals and Frost

Posted by Rosie

When you look after animals on a smallholding you are very much aware of the weather as this affects what you do and even how the animals react.  Since Christmas I think we have had every type of winter weather possible including a smattering of snow, heavy rain, strong winds, calm days, an afternoon warm enough to sit outside with a coat on and frost.  If I had to chose one of these I would of course love a winter of mild, calm weather but as, in reality, that is not going to happen, I would have to chose frost.  In frosty weather the mud in the pig pen and all field gateways disappears overnight and you wake up to everything clothed in a silver mantle.

HOWEVER ... isn't there always a "however"? ... frosty weather is not without many potential problems when you live on a smallholding and look after animals:

Bedding and Food

In cold weather animals need a lot more bedding and food to keep warm.  The piglets love nothing better than burying deep in their bedding on a cold, frosty night and come the morning they all emerge demanding extra rations.  This year we've bought a supply of sugarbeet in from a local farmer - a tonne of it in fact so hopefully that will keep them full!  The pigs and Maddie, the goat, love it but the sheep thought I was trying to poison them!  They prefer their hay.  Maddie loves nothing more than a chou lapin as a tasty snack (a type of kale) but in frost these would give her belly ache and anyway they are frozen solid in the ground.  However she will at least more hay when it's cold, where-as in mild weather she tends to turn her nose up at this.

Sheep enjoying their hay
It must be cold - Maddie is eating her hay!

Water

Water becomes an issue as first the water butts all freeze and as the temperature falls further so does the outside tap. Then we have to bring water out from the house which isn't too as we have a downstairs bathroom, but it is a pain. Also if you have not seen the frost forecast and leave your watering cans full water ready for the next day then you have a problem. The water is frozen in the cans and you have no receptacle in which to transport water.  In really cold weather the wet food we make up for the pigs will freeze in the feed room and only a kettle full of boiling water will render it edible for the pigs ... so we have to bring the pig feed buckets in and store it in the bath overnight!  Good job we have an upstairs shower room too.

Gates and Soil

If frost follows wet weather you can find yourself in the situation of all metal gate bolts being frozen solid in the morning.  And even after getting these defrosted you may find that gates which only just skim the soil surface in wet weather will be stuck in frosty weather.  Remember how in school you learnt about water expanding as it freezes (or how the wine escaped out of the bottle top when you left it too long in the freezer to cool and forgot about it?), well the water in the soil expands as it freezes so the ground level rises and gates can be difficult to open.  Further more any rocks or logs used to wedge gates open will be frozen solid in to the soil and I can assure you a kick with a wellied boot does not always shift them and really hurts!  At least I am not wandering around barefoot like the chickens (who find suddenly there are no early worms to eat) or the ducks who find standing on on leg the best means to keep one foot warm at any one time.

No early worms on a frosty morning
Keeping one foot warm

Despite all of these points though I still prefer frost over wind, rain or snow.  Wind makes the animals skittish and I spend ages searching for lost food bowls etc., rain makes everywhere muddy and doing rounds is just miserable and snow is simply hard work (although in it's defence the countryside does look wonderful). 

Winter at Eco-Gites of Lenault

Do you look after animals and find you or they have a favourite type of winter weather?  Maybe your dog doesn't like the frost or you have a cat who adores playing in the snow.  Please do let us know in a comment.




16 comments :

  1. Ah bless, I always think about outdoor animals in cold weather, especially the ones that aren't properly cared for and that suffer. Great to see all the little extras yours have to help them warm up.xx

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    1. Hopefully we do enough tto help keep ours warm and happy.

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  2. Oh winter looks so lovely there, though I'm not a great big fan of the cold! :) x

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    1. I don't mind frost but anything falling from the sky gets a big fat DISLIKE from me!

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  3. I hadn't really thought about what was necessary for looking after farm animals in cold weather. Our cats just refuse to go out if it snows or is too wet.

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  4. Gorgeous photos Rosie. I can see your point about frost keeping things clean and I'll always choose cold and dry over wet any day.

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    1. If I could banish mud I'd be a happier person!

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  5. I don't even you having to look after all the animals whatever the weather. Brewster seems to love most weathers, even torrential rain doesn't bother him, but my old cats wouldn't leave the house if it was raining.

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    1. Harry seems oblivious to rain but Saari hates it.

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  6. Stella hates rain and snow, as it's falling, but loves a puddle once it's stopped. She loves to run around in the wind but it does tend to send her a bit bonkers! More so than usual ;)

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    1. Yup - that sounds like Saari although Harry seems to love being out whatever the weather.

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  7. This was such an interesting post and you never think about how much work goes into looking after outdoor animals. Really enjoyed reading this :0 #animaltales

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    1. Thank you - deep snow makes things even more "fun"

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  8. Lucas says - I love outdoor animals and I found it really interesting when the Mother read this post to me. Our neighbours got chickens and I like to help her when I see her. Now I know a bit more, I'll be able to help her more when she's looking after them :0 #animaltales

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    1. Just remember, Lucas not to play with the chickens like Harry tried to.

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