The States Vet is advising Islanders looking after livestock to take extra care of their animals in the wet weather.
Long periods of wet weather can be a problem if animals are not fit and healthy and receiving a balanced diet. Like humans, animals thrive best on a balanced diet and members of the public should not give food or titbits to horses and other animals unless they have the owner’s permission.
States Veterinary Officer Linda Lowseck advises animals should have access to some form of shelter when the weather is severe. Natural shelter can be provided by hedges, trees, or walls. Housed animals should not be turned out suddenly in severe weather.
Horses should have access to effective shelter and/or be suitably rugged to protect them against cold, wet, windy weather. However some horses, for example native breeds, may not require a rug and some will simply not tolerate a rug.
The Department of the Environment’s Animal Health and Welfare section receives a large number of calls at the start of the year when the weather is wet and animals are out in the field, but Ms Lowseck says that in most cases the animals are cared for and well.
“It’s encouraging that people are concerned about animal welfare, but if you see animals out in the rain it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re suffering. For example, they may have access to shelter or may be brought in at night. Or perhaps their owner may judge, as a result of their experience of caring for livestock, that the animals are hardy enough and have a warm enough winter coat to withstand our normal winter weather.”
However, Ms Lowseck added that owners can take steps to minimise the risk of harm in the event of conditions worsening, “Prepare for severe weather by considering whether you can give your animals access to less exposed fields or accommodation or whether you have an alternative in the event of flooding.”