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Caring for Large Animals in Winter


Wisconsin winters bring cold, blustery weather and large animal owners need to pay extra attention to providing care to their livestock during this time of year.

“Winter brings cold conditions that generally require increased shelter for large animals,” explains Dr. Bob Leder, of United Veterinary Service in Bear Creek, Wis. “Dietary requirements for animals in the cold are also increased.”

Large animal owners will provide extra feed to their livestock to ensure their health through the winter. Shelter is also vital. Windbreaks or three-sided open buildings are commonly provided for beef cattle, sheep and horses, according to Dr. Leder. Dairy cows typically spend increased time in barns.

Proper shelters provide comfortable areas for animals to lie down and stay warm. Bedding, typically straw, shavings or cornstalks, aids animals by keeping them insulated and reducing heat loss. The bedding should be dry and plentiful to provide enough insulation as well as a cushion for the animal.

“The key is to keep the bedding surface dry,” says Dr. Leder. “Wetness increases heat loss of the animal, so the goal is to keep the animal’s laying area dry and soft.”

Large animal owners usually manage bedding daily or every other day depending on the type of animal and how many are kept together.LA Winterizing and Bedding Photo 2

Other options also exist to help animals keep warm.

“Young calves are commonly ‘dressed’ with a blanket or jacket that is made of insulating material, such as wool, to keep them warm in the winter,” describes Dr. Leder.

Veterinarians help their clients establish practices to improve animal comfort, well-being and nutrition, especially in winter.

“Feeding practices are reviewed. Shelter conditions and bedding practices are discussed, and modifications are made when necessary,” clarifies Dr. Leder.

To learn more about caring for large animals in winter, contact your local WVMA member veterinarian. Find one online at


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