Sheep in the Winter
Winter! How does that affect our livestock?
Thankfully, our sheep have 9 months worth of growth on their wool coats, when the weather starts to get really cold. Wool is a great insulator from the cold. The more I read about wool the more I am convinced it is an almost perfect fiber! The sheep are lucky to have it.
I always hear some concern for our sheep, when the snowy ewe pictures get posted, that they are out in the snow and not tucked away in the barn. I have shared this in the past, but will again-"Sheep are Tough". My flock prefers to be outside. We have less health problems when they live out on the pasture. They have great survival instincts. They stick together, know where the windbreaks are, and they tend to stick close to the barn when the weather is really unpleasant.
We do have to feed extra bales of hay, and make sure the hay is good quality. Their nutritional requirements are higher with the colder temperatures and the hay produces body heat when it is digested.
We also make sure they have clean water. I know that some sources say that they can eat the snow and I know that my sheep have eaten snow, but we still put water out every day.
If the weather gets harsh we will move them into the barnyard so they have more protection against the elements.
I should add I am talking about adult sheep with wool growth, not sheep that have no fleece or young lambs. If we had lambs right now it would be a completely different story, they would not have the means to maintain their body heat. They would need to be housed, one of the reasons we lamb in the Spring.
We also have goats. I love our goats but they are not as hardy as the sheep when the weather turns really cold. It is not their fault, their winter coats just don't compare to those woolly sweaters that the sheep are blessed with. They are the first to be moved into the barnyard and occasionally bought into the barn to help them keep warm. They also have the extra feed requirements.
December will be here in a few days, the cold weather is coming-time to pull my wool hat out of storage!