How many times, over the last couple of weeks, have you heard someone comment on how cold it is? Invariably, the person who has been out in the snow and ice has been wearing several layers of clothing and thick boots. Well spare a thought for the region’s livestock which does not have thick socks and wellie boots and certainly does not have the opportunity to come in from the cold and warm up by the fire.

I have a small flock of Pedigree Southdown Sheep and so I know first-hand that the winter weather can be tough on livestock and animals often need a little extra protection at this time of year. I have found that making a contingency plan can make all the difference in keeping livestock safe and sound in extreme weather conditions. The Sheep Farmers Calendar is organised so that spring born lambs can take advantage of the abundant grass through the summer months so most sheep are in the latter stages of pregnancy at this time of the year and the extra metabolic demands required to stay warm and find food in snowy conditions can put a strain on their metabolism. Some hardy sheep breeds can take this in their stride but our “Southern Softies” need a little bit of extra help.

At this time of year it can be tempting to ignore weather warnings and assume forecasters are being overly cautious. But given the cost of being caught out, unable to reach animals who may be hungry or in distress, I’d encourage farmers to exercise extra caution during the cold snap.

Consider moving animals from high ground before extreme weather arrives or at least make sure there is fodder ready on site. Water provision needs to be checked as well to make sure animals can survive if temporarily stranded.

Remember that snow and storms can also disrupt delivery to your farm so it may be a good idea to stock up on necessities just in case.

There is no substitute for a clear contingency plan, thought out and prepared before bad weather arrives. It’s better to have a plan and not need it than to lose animals in circumstances that could have been avoided.