Contributed by: Valerie Mellema
We’ve seen a slight decrease in temperatures slowly but surely as we enter the first few days of fall in East Texas. For many, this marks the time to be prepping for much colder weather to come. With the talk of El Nino on the weather stations, it would likely be wise of us all to think ahead. Here are a few tips to prep your barns and pastures for the winter.
Stock Up on Hay
Depending on your pasture situation, you’re likely going to need a good supply of hay for the winter. Horses should receive 2% of its body weight in hay per day. That means 20 pounds of hay for 1000 pound horses or 600 pounds of hay per month. Depending on how many horses you have, that can amount to a considerable amount of hay. On extremely cold nights, more hay should be fed to help your horses stay warm.
Prepare Your Footing
If you have pastures or areas that routinely get muddy, now is the time to prep those areas. A variety of material can be used including wood chips, gravel and sand. Areas in front of gates, feeding areas in paddocks and walkways are notorious for getting muddy.
Refine Your Manure Management Program
Depending on how your horse’s are kept, you may need to consider a manure management plan for small pens and paddocks. We’re expected to receive a lot of rainfall and possibly snow this winter. An average horse produces 50 pounds of manure per day which equals 50 pounds of mud if manure is not cleaned out of pens on a consistent basis. If you use your manure for compost, considering putting a tarp over your manure pile. This will help prevent the manure from washing away and diminishing your compost. At the same time, it will also help prevent runoff into natural water sources.
Prep Your Pastures
Now is the time to give your pastures a break and spread compost. By adding compost to your pastures, you’ll be fertilizing your grass. By resting your pastures, you’ll be able to ensure quality grazing for the months to come. Pastures that are grazed too quickly in the fall will not bounce back from winter damage in the spring resulting in slow grass growth. This is also a good time to get your pasture soil analyzed and have your pastures seeded. Your local extension office can help you with this.
Check Your Gutter and Water Run-off
Adding or fixing the gutters on your barn now will save a lot of headache and mud later. Now is the time to check your water runoff areas and divert them if necessary.
Check Your Barn Lights
In the summer we get used to the natural ambient lighting that lasts until around 9pm or so. It won’t be long until our days will be much shorter, resulting in dark barns around 6pm. Check your interior lights now so you’ll be able to find your way around the feed room, tack room and barn aisle. It’s also a good idea to check your exterior lighting as well as arena lights if you’ll be riding in the evenings.
Check Your Implements & Blankets
Now is the time to get new or fix any broken wheelbarrows, pitchforks, etc. If you blanket your horses, now is the time to make any repairs to straps, clips, buckles and patch any holes.
Check Water Lines & Insulate Lines
There’s nothing worse than a broken water line in the winter. If you have exterior lines that are exposed, these should be insulated.
Stock Up on Bedding
If you’ll be keeping horses indoors for the winter, it’s a good idea to stock up on bedding now. It’s ideal to use a bedding that has a low amount of dust to ensure your horse’s respiratory health.
Clean Tanks, Water Heaters and Tank De-Icers
If you have a water heater in your barn, clean it up and make sure it’s properly stored and insulated. If you have tank de-icers and heated water buckets, get those cleaned and ready as well. Many people prefer to use rubber buckets in the winter, as de-icing plastic buckets can cause them to crack and break.
Walk Your Fence Lines
Walk your fences and check for any damaged planks, posts or wire. These things are easier to fix in warm weather.