Most of Nevada’s cattle and sheep are raised on the open range, however, many smaller livestock producers, like those who raise horses, goats and even pigs need to provide their animals with some shelter in the winter time. Although, animals have their natural coats which allow them to endure much colder temperatures than people can tolerate. When animal housing is designed for human comfort, it can actually be too warm and unhealthy for animals. Buildings with plugged air cracks and windows covered with double plastic are often poorly ventilated. This situation can result in a buildup of moisture and animal odors, creating an unhealthy environment.

A simple, three-sided shelter with an open front will meet the needs of many farm animals and is often the building of choice to raise healthy livestock. When designing a three-sided animal shelter, make sure the open side faces away from prevailing wind. Locate the structure on an elevated, well drained site and make it accessible for feeding and materials handling.

There are several factors to consider when planning adequate livestock shelter in cold weather:

• Air quality: An animal shelter should either be open, with provisions for natural ventilation, or enclosed, using fans and proper air inlets around the ceiling perimeter to provide ventilation. Tight buildings result in a buildup of respiration gases and animal odors, which can irritate the animals’ lungs and cause pneumonia. This is one advantage of living in an arid region, as humidity in a livestock shelter is lowered, so are the concentration of microbes.

• Drafts: Animals can stand cold temperatures, but you should protect them from drafts. Constructing panels in front of an open building can reduce drafts. When animals are allowed to run loose in a pen, instead of being hitched, they will search for the most comfortable spots.

• Dry bedding area: Animals will be comfortable in the cold if they have clean, dry bedding. A thick, dry bed provides insulation from the cold ground and decreases the amount of energy the animal has to expend to keep warm. Shelter from the snow and rain allows an animal’s coat to remain dry, to provide maximum insulating value.

• Fresh water: All animals need water to survive. Under cold conditions, provide fresh water often or use freeze-proof watering devices.

• Adequate food: Animals can endure severe cold temperatures if they eat enough food to maintain their energy reserves. Animals need food for growth and maintenance. They require additional amounts of good quality feed during cold weather to allow for the extra energy expended in keeping warm. Hay racks or feed bunks will properly dispense forages to reduce waste.

If you do provide pasture, the number of animals it will support per acre depends on soil fertility and environmental considerations. Rotational grazing — the practice of sectioning off one section of a pasture with electric fencing and confining animals in that section, then repositioning the fence and moving animals to another section — prevents pastures from being overgrazed and will support more animals than one large unimproved pasture of equal size.

Finally, in livestock production, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best winter management practice is to make sure that your livestock is in good condition before the cold weather hits. Livestock never need to be fat, but making sure they are at a healthy weight is essential as they go into the winter season.