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UConn farm animals stay warm and healthy for the winter

By Loumarie Rodriguez
On February 18, 2013

  • The department of animal science at UConn takes care of its numerous farm animals year round, but takes special care in the winter months. ANEIL YOUNIS/The Daily Campus

Throughout the fall, students see the dairy cows grazing in large fields across from the Towers Quadrangle, but as the seasons change, the UConn farm animals are placed into assorted barns in order to meet their winter needs.
"It's just not the winter, all the animals have places to go in order to get out of the wind," said Steven A. Zinn the department head of animal science. "For the most part the cows and horses are much more cold tolerant than we are. The pigs and chickens are kept inside in heated barns, they are a lot more temperature sensitive."
Zinn explained that during the winter, it could be more tiring for the people rather than the animals because of the constant maintenance especially when there is a lot of snow. Before winter storm Nemo hit the northeast, there was a lot preparation to find ways to take care of the animals. Zinn said that they worked around the snow, but it takes extra effort in order to do the same job.
Lindsey Parshall an 8th semester animal science major who typically takes cares of the horses, said that during the winter, caretakers must also prevent water from freezing make sure they are kept unfrozen for the animals.
"We have to climb through snow drifts in order to get to machinery and with the cold they (machinery) could get stuck," said Parshall.
Zinn described the preparation the department took in order to prepare for winter storm Nemo which began on Wednesday. He explained they considered the difficulty of travel, the possibility of the power going out, and intense wind. Zinn says there is a group of students who actually live in the barn (dairy barn) who are there during these storms to take care of the animals.
In the event that they do lose power there is a generator so that cows can be milked and the dairy cows can get water. The number one concern according to Zinn is getting water and feed to the animals in case power does go out.
"We are always prepared for that [storms] and have big tanks that are filled with water and make sure they [the animals] have access to it," said Zinn. "This storm [Nemo] was phenomenal."
During the winter, there are equal or fewer deaths to the animals as in other seasons. Animals also do exercise during the winter, which usually consists of walking around in lots located near or next to the barn. However, if a large storm is predicted to hit, animals are brought back into the barns for protection.
At UConn, there are about 40 beef cows, 45 sheep, 85 horses, 800 chickens and over 100 dairy cows. The pigs are mainly used for research and will be sold once the research is finished.
Toward the conclusion of winter animals are put out to graze if the grass is fit for them to eat. The farm animals will stop grazing toward the end of October or November depending when the grass is done. Not all animals are put out such as horses but they do go out more during the spring.
"They should be out in late April or early May," Zinn said. "It depends on the winter if the snow doesn't go away this year. The dairy cows will go out when they are dry meaning they are not lactating so they are out there for 40 to 60 days, but it's mostly the sheep and beef cows that get pastured."

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