Choose the Right Food to Keep Your Animals Warm

— Written By Kim Tungate and last updated by
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Have you ever wondered how animals, especially ones without heat and shelter, survive these cold harsh winter days and nights?  The answer is simply food.  Food provides energy, and energy is required to produce body heat. Therefore, all animals including dogs, chickens, horses, goats, cows, and ducks rely on food to meet their energy requirements.  So now you have to ask yourself, does the hay I’m feeding my cows, or does the grain I’m feeding my chickens, or does the dog food I’m feeding my dog supply enough nutrients to meet my animal’s energy requirements? 

To understand your animal’s energy requirements, you first have to understand your animal’s nutritional requirements.  To a further degree, each animal has a specific nutritional requirement depending on if the animal is growing, mature, or nursing a young pup, calf, or kid.  Fortunately for us, there are ways of determining the specific quantity and quality of nutrients our animals need to meet the energy requirements to stay warm in freezing weather.  North Carolina Cooperative Extension through NC State University and NC A&T State University has several publications online, and at our extension office that give animal nutrition requirements along with feed rationing requirements.  So once you’ve determined the nutritional requirement of your animal, you can then select the right food source to meet your animal’s nutritional needs. 

Knowing the nutritional content of the food source for your animals is simple.  For store bought feed such as dog food, sweet feed, or corn gluten pellets there are nutrient value tables on the bag that allow you to know the exact quantity of nutrients in that food source.  For other feeds such as whole kernel corn, cracked corn, soy hulls, fescue hay or coastal bermuda hay a little more work is required on your part to determine the nutritional value of that feedstuff.  Luckily, this work is simple and easy.  You can determine the nutrient content of these feedstuffs through sending a sample of the feed to be analyzed for nutrient values.  The samples are sent to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Commercial Animal Feed and Pet Food Program.  If you have any questions on how to sample or where to obtain sampling bags, then contact our Extension office and one of our staff members will gladly supply you with the sampling bags and directions on how to obtain a feed sample. 

Finally once you have determined your animal’s nutritional requirements and the nutrient values of the food source you plan to feed them, then you are all set for ensuring that your animals will stay warm throughout the cold months of the year. Remember, animals require a steady diet of high quality food to produce energy (heat) so that they may stay warm, maintain body composition, and continue growing throughout the winter.  If you have any questions on animal nutrient requirements, feed sampling, or interpreting a feed test report then please contact me and I’ll be more than happy to walk you through any of these processes. 

Kim Tungate is Agriculture Agent, Field Crops and Livestock for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.

Updated on Jan 17, 2014
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