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Preparing your barn for winter is the most important way to keep your livestock investments safe. Even cold-hardy animals will struggle to survive if they lack shelter, food, and drinkable water. Sure, they can eat snow, but it takes about six times as much snow to get the water they need. Every mouthful will make them colder and colder! Winterizing your barn will help ensure your livestock don’t struggle but instead thrive when the snow starts to fall. Bear in mind, however, that you should try to avoid using de-Icing products as much as possible. These products can work against you as they should not be ingested and can irritate the pads of smaller animals. Instead, by following our list below you can get your barn ready without even needing them.
Winterizing Your Barn Interior
Deep Clean Stalls
Remove all bedding and stall mats, then power wash the walls, ceiling, and floors. Apply a good quality cleaning solution before washing again. If you have a dirt floor, finish up by spreading lime over the ground to kill viruses and bacteria. While everything is drying, clean and dry the stall mats. Let everything dry thoroughly before pulling it all together again.
While your stalls are empty, make sure feeders are securely attached and have no cracks or sharp edges. If they are beginning to show wear and tear evaluate if they can safely get through the winter and replace them if necessary.
Again, while the stalls are empty, go through and check the walls. Replace any old wood boards that have been chewed or split or become uneven, as well as those that have splintered or have loose nails. Run your hands over them to make sure there are no splinters that could harm livestock.
Complete Any Repairs
You don’t want to deal with broken doors, bad gates, and other problems in the middle of a snowstorm. All those repairs you may have been putting off during the good weather? It’s time to get them finished.
Clean Out Appliances
Vacuum out space heaters and replace their filters. Make sure they’re in good working condition so they don’t become a fire hazard.
Prepare Livestock Water Tanks
Make sure waterers are set up to keep from freezing and be prepared to check all waterers with electric heaters by hand to ensure there is no short that can shock your animals
Check out our other checklists: Ultimate Fall Chore Checklist and Preparing Your Homestead for Winter
Prevent Rodent Problems
Keeping rodents out of your feed is an important part of preparing your barn for winter. Increase the number of mouse/rat traps to prevent infestation of rodents in your hay and feed. If you keep a barn cat, be careful to put the traps where your cat cannot accidentally get to them. In addition, keep feed, grain, hay, and supplements in rodent-proof containers.
Check Air Circulation
While you want to eliminate drafts, you must make sure there is still air circulation. Livestock are often very sensitive to strong smells like ammonia in urine. Check for condensation on windows in the morning as this is a sign that your barn lacks proper circulation.
Clean Eaves and Rafters
Clean out any cobwebs, bird nests, and other debris to reduce fire-risk
Make sure fire alarms are working, change any batteries, check and replace fire extinguishers as necessary
Change lightbulbs and add lights to areas such as entryways, washing racks, and grooming areas that can be much darker during the wintertime. Switch to energy-saving or sunlight-detecting bulbs as much as possible.
Organize coats and blankets
Get Rid of Dampness
Hang Damp-rid or set up de-humidification to prevent mildew on equipment and in feed.
Winterizing Your Barn Exterior
Check Gutters, Turnouts, and Drainage
Check, evaluate, and perform any maintenance, repairs, or improvements on your turnouts and drainage. You want to make sure your gutters and drain systems won’t leak into your barn as part of preparing your barn for winter. This could be disastrous just from the standpoint of water getting into your feed hay. Plus, you want to be sure that your barn won’t have standing puddles of water that could freeze and become a hazard.
Protect pipes, hoses, and cords from water with pool noodles. They are easy to split, provide great insulation, and with a little duct tape are fairly water-resistant.
Clean and Inspect the Exterior
Perform any repairs that should be done to keep your barn sealed up and safe this winter. Check the foundation for cracks and fill them. Double-check weatherstripping and make sure it doesn’t need to be replaced.
Inspect Your Work Route
Walk your winter chore route. Is it safe? Will it get too muddy? Do what you can to reduce mud around the barn, especially in walkways and around entrances. Think about how you will clean out manure and other similar chores to ensure the path will remain safe.
Inspect the Roof
Clean your roof and perform any repairs needed to keep it safe and solid this winter.
Preparing Yourself as Part of Barn Winterizing
Check all flashlights and battery-operated equipment and make sure it’s easily accessible and ready to use.
Preparing your barn for winter means you have to prepare your mind as well. Plan to check your animals every single day. Re-evaluate your chores method to make sure it’s as streamlined as possible, exposing you, your equipment, and your livestock to the elements no more than is necessary.
Stock Up on Supplies
Stock up on feed and supplements, bedding, and hay. You’ll want only a couple of weeks of anything that spoils unless you can prevent spoilage. Make sure green hay is stored with space between bales for circulation.
Winterize Equipment & Tools
Make sure farm equipment has an oil change, that the antifreeze is changed, and plug in any diesel motors. Clean, sharpen and oil any hand tools.
Get Ready for Snow
prep snow removal tools to make keeping the area around your barn clear – horse hair polish is a great option for this.
Clear Our Trash
Declutter and throw out broken or unusable items. Make a list of anything that must be replaced in the spring
Consider culling unprofitable livestock – saves money and provides food
Set up an ’emergency shelter’ in your barn. Build a comfortable place to sleep with accessible food and water. An emergency shelter will keep you safe if the weather is too dangerous to get back home.
Double-check your first aid kit. Restock any items that are missing or expired.