Freezing Rain and Cold Temperatures

The fourteen years I have lived in Texas on our place I have tracked or recorded the weather. Weather revolves cycles, and knowing the approximate time the temperatures will be the coldest, or hottest helps the sheep farmer prepare for the well being of their sheep and livestock.

The well being of the sheep is what determines a profit in raising sheep. Providing nutritious feed and minerals to enable the sheep to grow lambs and maintain good body condition is important. Providing feed daily to insure the animals have the calories to create body heat and stay warm is an important part of keep sheep warm during cold wet weather conditions.

Water is also important. I do not have heated waters for my sheep. I make sure every water trough is full before the ice storms arrive. During the freezing temperatures I check the water troughs to make sure the sheep are able to get to the water to drink. I would love to have heated automatic waters for my sheep. The cold water takes energy away from the sheep as the sheep are cold on the inside when they drink. Warm water would help the sheep to stay warm when they drink, and would encourage more drinking of water during the cold weather.

Sheep can tolerate cold temperatures very well provided they are out of the wind and dry. The wind literally blows the warmth away from the sheep. The sheep creates heat to keep the inside of the sheep warm, and with they are in a shelter, the heat radiates from the body creating a pocket of warmer air around them. Without a shelter to keep the wind away, all the radiant heat from the sheep’s body is blown away, and the sheep has to work harder to keep their internal body heat up. A sheep getting wet to the skin is also bad, as the water transfers the cold temperature directly to the sheep. The protective hair or wool does not have the insulating properties once it is wet to the skin. Wool sheep will handle the cold better, as the wool is water repellent and a strong insulator to the cold temperatures holding the sheep’s body heat next to the body of the sheep. Hair sheep such as Dorpers and Katahdin do not have the insulation of wool. So making sure they do not get soaked in the rain by providing some form of shelter is important. Keeping sheep out of the wind and dry with a shelter is a big help to the sheep’s wellbeing and the sheep farmer’s peace of mind.

When I know there is going to be a cold front arriving, I feed my sheep more hay. I have a ration of grain and hay I feed for the average cold temperatures during the winter months. But when the colder temperatures arrive, I add more hay to the feeders to accommodate the increase of calories used by the sheep to stay warm. Once the temperatures return to the average for winter temperatures, the regular hay ration is restored.

Stay safe and warm during the winter months. Preparation for events helps prevent emergencies and loss.


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