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Winter is coming

Fall is officially upon us. For me, the start of the fall season is marked by the local agricultural fairs, students back at school, changing colors of the leaves, earlier sunsets and chilly nights (and of course – pumpkin spice lattes!). For farmers, the start of the fall season means it is time to wean calves, finish harvesting and storing hay, repair fences, work on machinery and anything else that needs fixing before the winter weather hits.

The work doesn’t stop

As you may guess, despite the days getting shorter and the cold weather continuing to roll in, work on the farm is far from over – animals still need care and farm chores still need tending. Anyone with pets, especially dogs and horses, can attest to this. Even when it’s cold enough for your tongue to get stuck on a metal pole (is it just Canadians that try that?), dogs still need to be walked and horses still need to be exercised. Just as we need to throw on that warmer sweater as we step out the door, our pets start donning their colder weather gear, too.

Dealing with the Cold

Of course, farm animals don’t need to be blanketed; there are other ways to deal with the colder temperatures. Maintaining thermal comfort is an important requirement for all our species-specific standards. In a previous G.A.P. Farm Life blog, we talked about breed selection – farms in more northern climates may prefer to choose breeds that are better adapted to colder weather. In addition, making sure there is enough forage for ruminants to eat is important too. As the forage is broken down in the rumen, excess heat is produced, which can be helpful to keep cattle and sheep warm (we talked about rumen health and diet in this blog).

The thermal comfort of non-ruminant species (this is a fancy way to describe animals that don’t have four-chambered digestive tracts that include a big rumen, like pigs and poultry) also needs to be considered. Baby chicks and turkey poults need extra heat for the first few days and weeks of life. Remember our blog on turkey brooding? Keeping chicks and poults warm in the fall and winter becomes even more critical as the ambient temperature drops.

Like chicks and poults, baby piglets also sometimes need an external heat source for the first few days after birth. Reducing draughts, keeping barns and buildings watertight, and providing extra bedding are helpful ways to keep animals, including pigs, warm. Check out our Snow Days blog to learn how our partners in the UK keep their pigs warm throughout the winter.

It’s also the season of coming together

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, or just use it as a reason to get together with friends and family, check out our yummy recipes (à la G.A.P. Team members). From Bacon Cheddar Scones to a One-Hour Thanksgiving Turkey, and everything in between, these dishes won’t fail to impress your guests!

Shout out to our G.A.P. farm partners on the other side of the world – in Australia and New Zealand – who are actually in the middle of their spring, heading into summer! I’m sure they’re still getting together for lots of family meals this season as well.

Keep in touch

Stay up-to-date with our latest news! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We also send out a specially curated newsletter to our G.A.P. followers – go to our website, scroll down to the bottom, and enter your email address to subscribe. Liked what you read here? Check out our other G.A.P. Farm Life blogs that weren’t mentioned above:

The Grass is Always Greener…In the Hay Bale

“Litter”-ally Keeping Turkeys Comfortable

A Lambing Success Story

Hogging the Spotlight

On the Move: Achieving Symbiosis in Cattle Ranching

The Dog Days of Summer

Guardian Dogs – A Farmer’s Best Friend

Krysta Morrissey

Author Krysta Morrissey

SENIOR FARM ANIMAL WELFARE SPECIALIST, GLOBAL ANIMAL PARTNERSHIP. Krysta's childhood dreams of becoming a large animal vet influenced her decision to study animal biology at the University of Guelph in Canada. While there, she found her love for farm animal welfare science and shifted gears to continue her education in poultry, mainly chicken, behavior and welfare. Her Master’s and PhD degrees focused on hunger mechanisms of broiler breeders and hens, and how those can be influenced in order to reduce feather pecking and cannibalism behaviors.

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