Preparing for the coming cold season

Well the clocks have changed, the leaves are falling off the trees – it must mean that summer has gone and winter is around the corner.

Luckily we are, despite the rain, enjoying some unseasonably warm weather.

However, I think most of our thoughts are turning to wintertime; Christmas shopping lurks in the back of our minds and extra fleeces and winter coats are coming out.

Animals too are gearing up for the winter. The wildlife is taking advantage of the late flush of fruit and berries on our trees and bushes, but it is important to start getting the bird feeders ready.

I’m not sure our domestic pets are too worried about the change of seasons – yes, there is more mud around after a walk. But in a world of luxury dog and cat beds and a reliable food source (us), I think some of their ‘hard-wiring’ will be switched off as the weather cools.

Our farm animals and horses are preparing too. They all get thicker winter coats to get them through the chilly period. Luckily most horses and ponies are provided with a stable, a nice cosy rug and a large hay net. Others that have to ‘rough it’ outside with a field shelter will be doing their best to ‘fluff-up’ and stock up on fat stores.

The cows and sheep are also storing fat though, thanks to a good summer. Farmers have a good supply of hay and silage to get them through the winter – a great improvement on last winter, where after the wet summer of 2012 the quality of food was poor. Most cattle will soon be coming in for the winter.

Part of the problem of putting such large animals all together is controlling the heat that they generate. Farmers clip hair along their backs to reduce condensation on their backs, but most importantly all buildings must be extremely well-ventilated to allow constant air movement and prevent pneumonia problems.

Like our older members of society, the cattle receive a flu jab to give immunity to the pneumonia viruses and bacteria, which can be life-threatening and extremely costly to treat.

It is often at this time of year that we see an outbreak of kennel cough in our dogs. Far from being a disease picked up in kennels, dogs can contract this viral and bacterial infection from anywhere other dogs go. There is a vaccination available for dogs that offers protection from this disease. It lasts for 12 months and often is incorporated into the yearly vaccination plan. However it can be given as a stand-alone vaccination at this time of year when risk is high.

Let’s hope this year we can all avoid the misery of a couple of weeks of sneezing and coughing.