How to Winterize a Livestock Barn

Harsh winter weather starts with strong wind, snow, and hail that seem to drive the North Pole right to the front door. If proper preparations have been made, winter is something that can be survived relatively problem free. In fact, some people and animals may even enjoy it! However, if your barn is not taken care of properly, the livestock will suffer, the business will suffer, and winter will be miserable. Times are tight in the winter and when the temperatures are freezing, it's not the time to be trying to make repairs with numb fingers and a gale force wind at your back. To learn how to properly winterize a barn for the harsh winter, read on.


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    Begin preparations before winter comes. Start by checking around the area and barn for debris and overhanging branches. Trim any trees that might fall down due to high wind and snow.
    • If you don't already have adequate storage set up, this is the time to build some. Add shelves, hanging posts, saddle racks, cupboard space, etc., where you can put tack, blankets, tarps, feed, medicine, barn tools, etc. Use labels or color codes to help you to keep things in order.
    • Do a general clean up inside the barn and remove used, rusty, broken, dated, etc., items. Check for expired medications and foodstuffs and throw these out. Restock with fresh items in date, and place any items that could freeze into your house storage (out of the reach of children and pets). Remove old hay and bedding which can harbor allergens and molds.
    • Wash down the floors and remove any stains and dried on urine or feces. Clean all stall mats and refill under stall mats if needed.
    • Repair the fences around the barn, if any. Paint gates and sand off any rust from gate joins and paint with rustproof paint.
    • Replace any broken windows with cardboard or plywood if money is tight. Give all the windows a good clean to help improve the amount of light entering the barn over the winter months.
    • Clean and oil the barn doors. Check that they're moving properly on their tracks.
    • Winterize the animals that will end up in the barn over winter by making sure they have their vaccinations are up to date and any other medical needs are attended to.
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    Check the electrical items and all barn wiring. It's important to ensure that any fire risks are removed or averted in the barn, and faulty electrical wiring is the leading cause of barn fires.[1] Check the wiring, the fuse box, and all electrical cords for soundness. If you find broken circuits or fuses, get an electrician to check immediately.
    • Place electrical wires in conduit pipes to ensure that rodents and other animals cannot gnaw on them.
    • Check fire extinguishers are in place and in date.
    • Clean the furnace filters (if you have one) and check to see if it might need to be replaced.
    • Replace any broken light bulbs. Put wire metal cages around bulbs to prevent the potential for breakage or fire from straw or hay smoldering on the light bulb as it operates.[2] Clean all light fixtures.
    • Service any heaters used in the barns.
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    Clear away fire risks. Besides electrical wiring, there are other things that should be cleared away to remove fire risks. Sweep up and remove any clutter from the barn, brush down cobwebs (use a broom, mop, or vacuum), and make sure that there are proper holders for hay and straw to prevent it from being strewn across the floor. Cobwebs that are hard to reach can be hosed down, or use a leaf blower. Remove birds' nests if there are any.
    • Store flammable products, including fuel, in a different place, not in the barn.
    • Avoid using extension cords in the barn.
    • Switch off and unplug all items in the ban when not in use, such as kettles, radios, portable fans, and heaters. All appliances used in a barn should have automatic shut-off switches.
    • If you haven't already installed fire alarms, consider doing so. Check existing ones and update their batteries.
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    Remove hazards. Anything that could potentially harm an animal or person inside the barn should be removed or stored safely. Remove all electrical cords, ropes, dangling wires, etc. These present tangling hazards. Lock away cleaning products, medications, and anything else that is toxic if swallowed or over-consumed.
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    Stockpile sand and rock salt near the entrance to the barn. Sand is useful for breaking down ice around the barn and for covering up spills inside the barn. The sand can be used to help livestock get traction when moving outside for brief outings. The rock salt can be used to break down ice.
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    Care for the barn roof. Check the roof of the barn and replace any frayed shingles that may look like they are damaged. The weather during winter will just increase the problem later on, which you don't want happening.
    • Repair leaks. On rainy days, check to see if the barn has any holes or leaks in the roof. You can also try doing this on a sunny day by shutting all the doors, covering the windows with the lights off to see if any light shines through cracks.
    • Clear out the rain gutters.
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    Insulate the barn against the cold. If you have the money, it would be best to insulate the attic of the barn. Tight on money? Use whatever you can find and be creative. However, try to not use something the livestock won't mind munching on. Some cheap but effective insulation suggestions include bales of straw, old carpet, lining for weed control, blankets, and corn stalks.
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    Your livestock won't be able to graze in winter, so stash up some hay/ and or grains.
    • If you have plumbing in the barn, use proper pipe insulation and heat tape to prevent them from freezing over and possibly bursting. Wrap the water heater in insulation.
    • Once snow begins to start pouring down, it can also be used as an insulator. Push the snow around the barn. Try to also remember that snow can get heavy. Don't bury the animals.
    • Consider getting a litmus test to make sure the barn is thoroughly insulated.
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    Ensure adequate ventilation for the livestock. It's important that the animals get fresh air as well as staying warm, in order to prevent respiratory illnesses.[3] Place thick plastic on the outside of most of the windows to make it warm, but don't make it too tight; just enough to eliminate drafts.
    • Caulking around windows and doors is a good idea to keep out the wind.
    • Close louvers and soffits not used for ventilation, or that cause drafts.
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    Check the water supply to the barn. Make sure it's in good order and that the pressure is adequate for both using in the barn and for using in case of a fire. Have well pumps serviced. During winter, warm water is an important element for drinking and general use,[4] so be sure to check the heated water supply.
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    Discourage pests. Feed should be kept in rodent proof containers and bins. Put netting around rafters to discourage birds from nesting. Place plastic owls and snakes in the barn to scare off some birds and rodents – these can be somewhat effective.


  • Be sure to keep a flashlight handy in the feed room or accessible location in case of power outages.
  • Ground fault circuit interrupters are vital if using heating devices for water. This will prevent electrical shocks.
  • Wash and air all winter clothing used for animals during the warmer weather. Store neatly in readiness for use.
  • Consider applying dust inhibitors.
  • Make sure to have a good supply of clean bedding for your livestock. Sawdust shavings and old, dry hay make good bedding and help provide insulation against a cold floor.
  • Clean everything stored in the barn wall, including tack, clothing, storage bins, mats, hoses, buckets, etc. You'll be much less inclined to clean anything during the colder months!
  • If dogs or cats live in the barn over winter, build them suitable sleeping places away from drafts. Use straw bales, blankets, boxes, etc., to ensure their comfort.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan for the animals in the barn in case anything goes wrong, such as a fire, or a storm, etc. Write up the plan and place copies of it in the barn and your house, so that everyone responsible for caring for the animals knows what to to in the case of an emergency. Have holding pens in the yard to place frightened stock in the case of an emergency.[5] Stockpile emergency feed and medical supplies for emergency situations as well.
  • If you don't have the time or ability to winterize your barn, seek help from family, neighbors, friends, or even pay for handy persons to come and assist. The more hands, the lighter the task.


  • Store new and drained anti-freeze out of the reach of animals. Some animals are attracted to it, with fatal consequences.
  • Don't hang electrical lights or other items over animal stalls, especially horses and cows, animals large enough to reach and chew.
  • Don't leave electric bucket heaters within the reach of livestock; the animals can be electrocuted.
  • Remove anything that is only used during the warmer months, and anything that might freeze, such as liquids and medications, insecticides, paint, etc.
  • Beware of coyotes or pests that might try to sneak a bite to eat during the winter. Mend any holes that predators might use to obtain access to the livestock.

Things You'll Need

  • Storage containers
  • Washing facilities
  • Brooms, mops, leaf blower, vacuum cleaner
  • Cleaning liquid (non-hazardous to animals)
  • New bulbs, wiring, etc., as required
  • Professional help from electrician
  • Oil for door
  • Repair items such as electrical tape, nails, etc.

Sources and Citations

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