Most farm animals can withstand limited exposure to cold weather. When temperatures begin to drop significantly below freezing, or if you have animals with compromised abilities to cope with the cold, then you may need to heat your barn. To determine whether or not you need a heated barn, you'll need to assess your location, situation and the specific needs of your animals.
The average winter temperature in your area of the country is going to be the primary factor in determining whether or not your barn needs to be heated. If temperatures inside the barn regularly dip below freezing -- or, in some cases, 45 degrees -- then you'll need to heat the barn. Barns in very cold locales will need to be heated to prevent animals from suffering from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-related problems. Areas where barn heaters are a must include the northern United States and Canada.
Your Animals are Fragile
Some animals are simply more fragile and vulnerable to the cold than others. If your farm animals are all furry, hardy creatures who can survive outdoors in the snow without your assistance, then it's unlikely they'll benefit from a heated barn. On the other hand, if you have young animals, very old animals or those who have little to no natural winter coat -- such as show horses with a short, clipped coat -- then you'll need to heat your barn to keep them warm and comfortable during winter months.
To Heat or Not to Heat
Losing even one animal to preventable cold-related health problems is unacceptable. Your barn will always be warmer inside than it is outdoors, and if you live in an area with moderate winter temperatures, then simply being inside the barn may be enough to keep your animals healthy. If you live in an area where you only occasionally experience extreme temperatures, then you may be able to get by without a fully heated barn, but it's best to be prepared if there's any chance you'll need to turn on the heat during winter months.
Keeping Your Animals Warm
Heating your barn can help keep your animals safe and warm during cold weather. Always make sure you use a safe form of heater that will not set your barn on fire, even if an animal accidentally tips it over or damages it in some way. In addition to installing heaters, you'll also want to make sure your barn is well insulated so that cold air is kept out and warm air stays in. Provide your animals with plenty of bedding, feed and hay. Animals will expend more energy keeping themselves warm in cold weather. If you have animals that you can blanket, such as horses, it's a good idea to keep winter blankets on hand to help protect them from the cold.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.