Housing/shelters- Ventilation is very important in designing your livestock shelters. The shelters should keep them dry and out of cold winds, but also vent well to decrease ammonia build up.
Provide ample insulation that will keep the animals at a minimum of 4” off of the ground or cement. The cement or ground will pull heat from the animals that lay directly on these surfaces.
Clean, dry straw is a good insulator that will provide a comfortable place for animals to lie down on and helps to insulate against the harsh elements.
Another neat trick is to use deep litter (thermophilic composting) methods to keep certain species of livestock warmer in winter. The basic principle is to create layers of livestock manures, then clean straw and repeat the process all winter. As the animals are defecating and urinating in the bedding, you simply turn it over every few days, allowing the microorganisms to breakdown the waste beneath and adding clean straw to the top. This method generates heat beneath as it composts and allows the animals to benefit from the heat generated from their own waste. It is important to turn it each time you add clean straw and to have proper ventilation for an aerobic, healthy composting to occur while keeping ammonia levels at a minimum.
The deep litter method works well with the FLOORS of chicken coops, goat and sheep shelters. For larger livestock, mucking out each day is advised because these species have wet manure and A LOT of it, so daily cleaning and weekly sprucing up and adding fresh straw or shavings is essential for good health. For chicken coops, the nesting boxes need to be cleaned and fresh shavings added daily, this will keep hens healthy and happy and the eggs nice and clean.
Water- All animals need water in cold temperatures, especially if it is freezing! Animals will quickly dehydrate in cold weather.
If there is no power outlet near your water tanks or buckets there are a few things that can help prevent the buckets from freezing.
There are several options for barns or livestock shelters with a power source nearby;
Electric water heater, de-ice devices, electric buckets, etc.…
Feed- Animals need more feed in the winter months with cold temperatures. The colder it gets the more energy they use to stay warm. Without high quality nutrients animals can deteriorate in body condition, thus making it harder for them to stay healthy. It is important to keep good quality hay available on a free feed basis and provide either grains or energy blocks that contain protein, fat and minerals. The roughage is the most important.
A few more tips;
Heavy duty plastic livestock curtains can be used on shelter openings to help reduce drafts in the shelters that do not have doors.
Keep hooves trimmed to prevent damage and rot that can be caused by muddy, wet ground in pens.
Avoid penning animals inside barns. Animals will take care of their needs if allowed clean dry bedding and ample room to exercise. They will also gravitate toward places that warm up in the day; example, our dairy goats like to hang out against the outside wall of their shelter on sunny days.
South facing shelters are the best in terms of living in an area with cold weather in the winter. This allows daytime sun to dry out and warm up the shelter, naturally.
There have been many articles written on this subject, these are a few things that we have used in the past and/or are using presently that have proven successful on our farm for our furry friends.