Do Animals Need to be Inside During the Cold Weather?

Posted: January 15, 2014

The snow is falling and the best place to be is snuggled on the couch, covered with a blanket, and drinking a cup of hot cocoa. Can't you just smell the chocolate? But, while you are inside a warm house, the farm animals are living outside. Don't they need to be inside during the cold weather?

 Livestock are very adapted to living outside in cold weather. They grow a heavy winter coat, wool, or have fat to keep them warm. When we are talking about cattle, that heavy winter coat provides warmth even when the temperatures are below 20 degrees. Once the temperatures fall lower or we add a brisk wind, the farmer feeds more to the animals to account for the colder weather. Additional energy in an animal’s ration allows that animal to produce more heat to keep warm.
               Animals are most susceptible to cold when temperatures are just above freezing and rain is falling. Many animals adapt to these temperatures, although animals such as goats prefer to be protected from the wet weather. During times of the year when freezing rain falls, farmers may opt to provide additional shelter for animals until the storm passes.
               Farmers provide shelter for animals in different ways. Some farmers house animals inside barns, while others provide open sided sheds. Most animals are perfectly content to have just a windbreak rather than a barn. A windbreak can be anything from a wooden wall to a row of trees to a hollow between two hills.
               Most animals actually prefer to be outside. Access to fresh air normally prevents them from getting sick. Animals housed inside barns are more prone to problems with pneumonia and other bacterial issues as compared to those housed outside.
               The next time you pass some animals that are housed outside in the winter, remember that it is natural for them to handle cold temperatures. Farmers provide more feed for them to keep warm. They have hair, wool, or additional body fat to keep warm. And, they are healthier outside. So, enjoy that hot cocoa and thank your local farmers for their work to keep their animals comfortable and healthy.
              For more information on managing livestock outside during the winter, contact Melanie at the Penn State Extension office in Bedford County at 814.623.4800 or by email at