Livestock need shelter

by Dr Marjorie Orr

With winter setting in keeping your lifestyle block animals warm and secure is a priority.

Livestock can usually cope fairly well with either rain or wind or cold temperatures but when two or more of these conditions occur together, animals can quickly become chilled. 

If they get so cold that they shiver, their requirement for feed increases hugely and if they don’t get extra feed they soon lose weight.

The animals that really need shelter are the old and the young, the newlyshorn and the fine-skinned, those in thin body condition and those that are not well.

This is true whatever the species — horses and ponies, cattle, sheep, deer, goats or alpacas.

Goats are particularly susceptible to cold because they have little fat under the skin and their coat is not waterproof.

Tethered goats should always have access to a weatherproof shelter with solid roof and walls.

Horses need shelter from cold wet windy weather and appreciate a cover in winter. These should be waterproof and fitted correctly so that they don’t chafe. The horse’s skin and body condition under the cover should be checked frequently.

Newborn animals are very vulnerable in winter and the odds are stacked against their survival when they are exposed to bad weather.

Rain, wind and cold temperatures together make a lethal combination and providing pregnant livestock with good shelter around the time of birth is like taking out an insurance policy.

With effective shelter, the odds of the newborns surviving are improved hugely.

Lamb covers can provide useful protection from wet windy weather but the covers must fit comfortably and they shouldn’t flap or rustle to frighten the mother. Monitor lambs with covers on to make sure they don’t get tangled.

Winter is a good time to plant trees and shrubs to provide effective shelter and shade for years to come.

There are many and varied types of shelter plants from low dense flax to native bush, from conifers like macrocarpa and pine to deciduous poplars and willows.

Because an effective shelter belt of trees and shrubs takes years to establish, you can put up temporary shelter, especially in paddocks where there are very young animals or newly shorn animals.

Wind netting secured tightly to the fence on the windward side of the paddock can be effective. 

If you are storing big bales of hay or baleage, they could be lined up close to but outside the fence.

Arranging bales of hay in the paddock in pairs in a V-shape angled into the prevailing wind provides good shelter for smaller grazing animals.