Have you ever wondered how animals especially cows brave the night especially during the cold weather? Some argue that animals do not feel cold like humans due to the far covering every inch of their body, while others argue that animals absorb heat differently.
The July- August cold weather has forced many to adjust their wardrobes, the streets are filled with people walking in boots, heavy trench coats while others add beanies and gloves. So one would wonder how do animals survive in this cold weather.
Joseph Mutua a farmer in Kajiado county says he ensures his cows are well fed especially at night.
“They generate heat a few hours after eating, so I ensure there is plenty of food and water,” Mutua says.
Mutua adds that he created a shelter for his cows, that has makeshift beddings.
“The shed is made of timber walls and iron sheet roofing, I created enough space between the walls and the roofing for ventilation. I also make sure the it is cleaned regularly and I have hay as beddings for the animals,” he says.
Anna Khabamba, a farmer in Perani, Lunga Lunga, Kwale County says her cows sleep outside but during the cold and rainy seasons there is a shelter for them.
"I always ensure their house is dry, and I clean the moist areas caused by urine and feaces. The ground is not cemented so I just sweep when the ground is too moist that is 2-3 days," Ms Khabamba says.
However she says the situation is different for her chicken. "Their sleeping area is cleaned everyday and we ensure the place is warm by providing heat."
Young ones suffer
FarmKenya resident veterinarian Dr Paul Kang’ethe says the cold weather is a huge challenge to animals especially the young ones.
“It is important that these young ones are kept warm, some animals know how to take care of their young ones. For example, the female rabbit is able to get wool from its body to cover the young ones,” he says.
However, Dr Kang’ethe says it is better to provide warmth for the animals for example the chicks.
“You can light bulbs but you should be cautious not to over expose them to heat. Also for piglets once they are born the same should be included just to make sure they are warm, the importance of warmth is to make sure that the body processes continue normally and to make sure whatever they are feeding is converted into good use,” he says.
He says since most broiler chicks are bought from the hatchery there is no mother to provide warmth so it is important to provide them with artificial warmth for the first four weeks.
For larger animals like the pigs, sheep, goats and cows, a good structure is important to make sure they are not exposed to the cold weather.
“As you build make sure you do not compromise ventilation to avoid buildup of gases like ammonia that would then cause irritation to the respiratory system and cause death,” he says.
Dr Kang’ethe adds that the sleeping area should be clean, dry and warm. If the area needs to be washed, then ensure there is no accumulation of water or mad.
For animals that need to be taken out can be kept indoors in the structures, zero grazing units for cows and sty for pigs and the chicken can be put in the chicken hoses to protect them from the cold weather.
“Alternatively you can provide good quality food to these animals and if the called water becomes not palatable you can warm it a bit,” he says.
Make sure the environment is comfortable by providing good shelter and a warm sleeping area, you can create beddings like sand, wool shavings and straws from hay.
What conditions can affect animals exposed to cold?
Dr Kang’ethe says the cold season presents a challenging time to livestock especially young stock. Chicks, kits, piglets, calves, kids and lambs are at risk. The cold stresses the young animals predisposing them to bacterial and viral infections.
Some signs of cold shock include body tremors, inability to feed, sneezing, clear mucoid discharge and sometimes death. The animals hurdle together to keep warm. Proper housing and provision of artificial heat protects these delicate creatures.