Farm Animal Health: Annual Farm Safety Check, Horse Bedding and Chocolate Toxic to Pets

MOTHER's Country Vet shares tips on farm animal health, including an annual farm safety check and questions on horse bedding and is chocolate toxic to pets.


| December 1997/January 1998



165-066-01

I would advise you to use straw or wood shavings as a base; the latter is definitely my favorite.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Dr. Looney, D.V.M., offers her farm animal health experience in caring for cows, calves, horses and sheep. This issue includes questions on annual farm safety, horse bedding and is chocolate toxic to pets. 

As this issue of MOTHER reaches you, we are all dreaming of shedding those bulky winter boots and climbing out of hibernation. I thought an appropriate way to begin this annual renewal process would be to prepare to examine the homestead and to make some repairs to the of barn door, so to speak. Spring farm repairs will not only improve the look of the property, but are a necessity for the safety of the animals. We're not talking about a total makeover, but the safety and comfort of the animals should be a high priority for every gentleperson farmer.

At the first hint of spring weather, begin by surveying the property. Try to spot areas where pastured or even free-roaming animals might become entangled. Downed brush along the fence may not only create an easy escape route, but may also become a source of poisonous fruit and foliage once blossoming begins. Goats and sheep in particular are good climbers and reachers so be sure to watch out for plants that are slightly higher than the fencing in order to prevent indigestion, toxicity, and entanglement of the animals. Secure any fence boards that may have sprung loose with the rise and fall of the frozen ground. Make sure to pick up old baler twine, lost shoes, hatters, bits of wire or anything that seems even vaguely ingestible.

Fencing should be secure. Try to note areas of untreated lumber on fences and buildings that may over the next few rainy months become friable. Peeling paint should be removed before some unsuspecting mouth chews it off Lead toxicity is a real danger in many barnyards and paddocks. In addition, frayed parts of wood and rubber fencing can cause a serious colic in most horses. In order for the paint to stick well, it's reasonable to wait until the temperature is consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is around 50 percent before you start repainting. Remember to dean the areas around the baseboards with a diluted Clorox solution before painting in order to get rid of mildew.

Don't forget to get up on the roof to check the gutters and recaulk old nail holes before the tiny drips that will leak through them threaten everything that's kept in the upper floors of the barn, including your hay. Inside, examine wiring and remove cobwebs. The grain bins should be swept and dusted and made easily accessible to all animals except rodents. Strip the bedding from the stalls and look at the flooring. Lime or wash down hard floors and replace soft flooring if that's a possibility. Check water buckets, feed tubs, door handles, bars, and mangers for sharp edges and places that can easily allow entanglement.

While the list may be long, preparing and repairing now will save you endless headaches in the coming summer and fall. Good luck, and remember, spring is on its way!





dairy goat

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