Home Animal Tails Wool Coats Not Always Enough For Sheep In Cold Weather
Wool Coats Not Always Enough For Sheep In Cold Weather Print E-mail

Managing mature sheep and goats in winter usually doesn’t differ much from routine best management practices ranchers implement throughout the rest of the year. Regular observation of feed availability and body condition scores and the prevention and treatment of health problems such as internal parasites and foot rot are par for the course.

However, in very cold temperatures – and even more so in wet, freezing conditions – farmers and ranchers need to step up their routines, especially for kids and lambs, says Dr. Jodie Pennington, small ruminant educator with Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Missouri) Extension. Sheep and goats will eat more than normal in severe weather to maintain body temperature. Good quality hay or other feed should always be available.

Animal Tails Sheep Winter Cold

“Wind chill will negatively affect the babies before it will the mothers who generate more heat from the bodies.”

“Make sure water is not frozen and accessible to the animals,” she advises. “The water may be frozen on the top and require breaking the ice; it is also possible pipes carrying water to the animals can be frozen in very cold temperatures.”

Caution, careful planning and superior care and handling are most critical, however, when sheep and goats give birth in the winter months. Providing shelter when the lambs and kids are born is essential. “It is possible to lose most of the babies born in cold, wet weather if there is no shelter for them,” warns Dr. Pennington. “Lambs and kids are smaller than calves and need more shelter in the cold, wet winter.” They can’t maintain their body temperatures in the outside elements. Heat lamps will considerably improve conditions inside the shelter also, notes Dr. Pennington.

Besides the temperatures, lamb and goat owners need to keep tabs on wind chill factors, too. “Wind chill will negatively affect the babies before it will the larger mothers who generate more heat from the bodies.”

Many lambs and kids will be fine in cold weather, says Dr. Pennington, but precaution and preparation is always good medicine. For more information about small ruminants contact Dr. Pennington: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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Written by: Dennis McLaughlin, McLaughlin Writers Group, LLC
Sources: MU Extension Service; Lincoln University Extension/Newton County Extension Center; Dr. Jodie A. Pennington, small ruminant educator.

Published: 2013-12-24


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