‘Keep animals warm this winter’


GENERALLY speaking, an animal’s health and welfare are closely linked to the health status of an animal influencing its welfare and its welfare influencing its health.
Good animal and farm management as well as paying close attention to the animal’s day-to-day management is one of the most important factors when determining acceptable animal welfare.
The welfare of an animal relates primarily to its ability to cope, both with its external environment – such as housing, handling by humans, weather as well as the presence of other animals, and with its internal environment – such as specific injuries or illnesses and nutritional status.
Cold weather is hard on us all, including our animals.
With winter upon us in Zimbabwe, it is important to protect your herd from dangerous temperatures.
Shielding cattle and other livestock from the wind and icy air is crucial.
Investing in a permanent windbreak is necessary for keeping livestock out of the wind, especially if there are no natural windbreaks like trees.
While shelter requirements vary between species, a windbreak will help animals maintain their natural desire to be outside while also keeping them from falling ill.
Exposure to windy drafts can make animals develop pneumonia.
During winter and cold weather, it is important to increase the quality of feed your cattle receive to support their daily energy requirements.
Energy requirements for cattle increase during the winter as more energy is required to stay fit and warm.
On average, the energy requirements for cattle increases by two percent for every degree drop in the wind chill temperature.
This equates to a lot of energy being used during the colder months just to stay warm and healthy.
This energy can be restored by adding high quality grains or additional roughage into the cattle’s diet.
Feeding cattle at night keeps them warm because heat produced from digesting food peaks a few hours after consumption.
Increasing the amount of feed can also help prepare livestock for the cold because a higher nutrient quality in the feed means more energy.
According to experts, feed will help livestock maintain body temperature and having a supply of good quality forages like grass hay goes further rather than having extra rations of grain.
Thus, supplying animals with more food that is ingested over a longer period, rather than providing several small portions every day, helps to ensure that weaker animals get access to feed distributions.
A separate feeding process should be set up for animals that are pregnant so that they can maintain themselves, continue to grow and grow a foetus for the future of the herd.
Since climatic conditions and pasture types vary greatly between regions, it makes a ‘one order fits all’ feeding strategy impossible.
However, supplementary winter feed is aimed at addressing nutritional shortages in pastures and veld only and should not be considered a substitute for these.
Feed supplementation is the provision of small volumes of concentrated feed stuff that is lacking in pastures or veld during winter.
Supplementary winter feeding, if done correctly,will result in animals receiving a more balanced diet which in turn will help to increase feed intake from veld or pastures; resulting in better animal performance in terms of feed utilisation.
Where a farmer is unable to supply the dietary needs of all his animals, it would be advisable to keep a smaller number of the best animals than to neglect them all.
A feeding plan should be initiated before animals have lost more than 15 percent of their body weight, or before starvation begins to disturb the animals’ digestive processes or weaken them.
New rations should be introduced slowly and over a couple of weeks.
If animals are allowed to lose weight slowly and systematically, they will be able to stay healthy on survival diets at 66 percent of their normal, mature bodyweight, especially during droughts.
The amount of feed given to animals depends on the quantity and quality of available sources of food.
Research has shown that if there is no grazing available, beef cows with an initial body weight of 440 kg can be kept on a 3,6 kg concentrate-rich daily diet for eight months, with a weight loss of only 63 kg.
This converts to a total digestible nutrient (TDN) intake of 2,65kg/day.
This feeding strategy does not apply to gestating animals and young replacement animals.
Weight loss during pregnancy can result in abortion, deficient milk supply and the production of weak offspring, while young replacement animals can suffer permanent damage that will prohibit them from reaching their full genetic potential.
Keeping animals in smaller areas will prevent them from exerting their energy in search of food and will protect from overgrazing an area.
It also has the added advantage of reducing labour and transport costs.
Experts advise to group weak and strong animals separately while ensuring there is enough space at the feeding troughs for all the animals since weaker animals may not compete with stronger animals for food.
Feeding intervals are dependent on the animal and feed types. However, it is generally better to supply animals with more food that is ingested over a longer period, than to provide several small portions every day.
This also helps ensure weak animals get access to the feed rations.
Animals should receive feed two-to-three times a week, but above all, keep yourselves and your animals warm this winter, please!
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD. in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer, musician, art critic, practising artist and corporate image consultant. He is also a specialist art consultant, post-colonial scholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher.
For views and comments, email: tony.MONDA@gmail.com


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