Heat is the number one thing on most farmers’ minds when they enter their barn during the winter. Not only is a heated barn necessary for the wellbeing of your animals, but it also makes doing barn chores in cold weather more pleasant. There are several ways to make barns warmer during winter, from improving construction to installing heating.
Make Sure the Building Is Built for Cold Weather
If your barn is drafty and poorly insulated, it will be even harder to heat during the winter. Ideally, your winterization plan should start during construction. Your barn should be properly insulated, with solid construction that prevents drafts.
Even after your barn is already constructed, you can still make repairs to improve the building’s ability to retain heat. During warmer months, fill in any holes while making sure that the barn is properly ventilated. You do not want drafts, but good airflow is crucial to maintaining a healthy environment. You can also improve the insulation after construction is complete.
Simple repairs that you may not even think of can improve a barn’s ability to retain heat. For example, clearing out any cobwebs will improve light coming into the barn and decrease the risk of fire, which is particularly important if you are installing a heating system. Installing or repairing gutters will prevent snow and ice from collecting around doors, which causes the temperature to drop.
Pay Attention to The Doors and Windows
While you are making your repairs around your barn in preparation for cold weather, pay particular attention to the state of your doors and windows. These are the most significant sources of drafts, which can cause the temperature inside the barn to drop.
Make sure that all doors and windows close and latch properly. You may even need to replace your barn end doors. Those doors can become warped over time and use, creating gaps for cold air to get in. Investing in a new set of barn doors that fit and close properly will save you money in the long term on heating bills.
During the winter, be sure to clean regularly around the doors and windows to prevent snow and ice from building up. This will improve the temperature inside the barn and help you avoid slipping during work. Regularly clearing out the area by the doors will also reduce the amount of mud that gets on your animals, which can affect their body heat.
If you have many open doorways, plastic livestock curtains can help limit drafts even when doors have to stay open. If you cannot buy proper livestock curtains, plastic shower curtains can also help retain indoor heat while allowing animals (and people) to move around freely.
Rearrange Your Animals
In general, livestock generate plenty of body heat. You can put that to good use in your barn during winter by arranging your animals appropriately. Penning large herds together causes more harm than good, but grouping livestock together in twos or threes inside one pen allows them to huddle for warmth and find comfort in each other.
Even if your animals cannot be in the same pen, they can still help each other stay warm. House them in stalls that are close to each other, and their body heat will still generate enough warmth. If you can concentrate all your animals in one area of the barn, that will also help you save on heating costs.
Provide Plenty of Bedding
Bedding is an important source of comfort and warmth for animals, particularly during winter. Whether you use sawdust, hay, or wood shavings, make sure that all of your animals have plenty of bedding at all times.
Their living area should also be dry, since a little bit of wet bedding or mud can quickly cause an animal to become sick. For some animals, this means that you will have to clean out their stalls more frequently than you do in the summer. For animals that produce dry waste, such as goats, you can get away with letting a few days pass between cleanings.
It is particularly crucial that vulnerable animals, such as newborns and young ones, have enough dry bedding. Otherwise, they are at risk of frostbite, which could seriously hurt or even kill them.
Often, no matter your other efforts, your barn will still be drafty and cold. In that case, you may decide to do what many farmers do and bring in additional sources of heating.
Farmers that live in particularly cold climates install permanent industrial heating systems. Usually, these systems use heating cables under the floor and heat the whole barn uniformly. These heating systems are the most efficient and prevent hazards such as fires, but they are also far more expensive than other solutions.
Other farmers turn to low-tech but effective heating methods such as filling tubs with hot water or heating bricks. These solutions are temporary but can be effective during cold snaps. However, you have to be careful with placement and material, as animals often like to chew through plastic tubs or jugs.
Finally, some farmers use temporary electric heating in the form of heat lamps. However, heat lamps can be a dangerous fire hazard. They should not be left unattended for long periods and should be placed far from flammable objects such as bedding and hay.
There are many different ways of ensuring that your barn remains comfortable even during the coldest winter days. Tactical repairs can go a long way toward preventing drafts, while farmers in colder climates may need to invest in more intricate heating systems. There are other ways you can improve your animals’ comfort, for example, by allowing them to huddle as a herd.
The method you choose for heating your barn will depend on what’s right for you and your animals. You should take different factors such as the climate, cost, and the needs specific to your animals’ breeds into account when preparing for the winter.