Keeping farm animals and horses in extreme weather
How to care for animals on farms and at market in severe hot or cold weather, floods or drought.
You must look after your livestock’s welfare during extreme hot or cold weather, floods or drought as part of your responsibilities for farm animals.
You should also see the other guidance about caring for your animals under normal conditions, including in transport and at the time of killing.
Plan for extreme weather
You must take reasonable steps (such as preparing food and water) to plan for your animals’ welfare in extreme weather. This should be part of your business planning when you know - or expect - livestock to be at risk during extreme weather.
You should check on your animals often and take necessary action (such as providing more water) if needed.
You should make sure livestock are protected from extreme weather and that food and water are available - you may need to cooperate with neighbours if supplies run short or access is difficult.
Get advice during extreme weather
Officials from local councils and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) monitor extreme weather situations. They work with the RSPCA, National Farmers’ Union (NFU), and other organisations who deal with farmers and animal welfare.
They can also help you find ways to prevent or reduce the suffering of animals.
Planning for floods
If you keep animals outdoors in an area where there’s a flood risk you should make a plan to protect them, which includes:
- where you’ll bring the animals during a flood
- how you’ll transport them there
Dealing with floods
During and after a flood, sewage, manure and chemicals can pollute water and this could infect any animals that drink it.
You should monitor your animals closely (especially young ones), and get advice from a vet if they drink flood water.
Disposing of dead animals
You must arrange for the disposal of any of your animals that die, and dispose of all carcasses by rendering or incineration.
As the owner of a dead animal, you risk a fine or imprisonment if you don’t deal with any carcasses that are a health risk or nuisance.
After flooding, animal carcasses can end up in a range of places including fields, hedgerows, depressions,roads, canals, rivers, beaches and the sea.
You should try to identify any carcass that ends up on private or public land. If ownership can’t be proven then the landowner is responsible for disposing of it.
When authorities will deal with dead animals
When a carcass ends up on public land or highways, and it’s not possible to identify the owner, the local authority is responsible for disposal.
The Environment Agency will remove a carcass from a watercourse, but only if it creates a risk of pollution or further flooding and it can’t identify the carcass owner or landowner.
Local authorities (usually environmental health authorities) can also deal with any dead animals that are a health risk or a nuisance. They’ll normally arrange the removal for rendering or incineration.
Extreme cold weather
- provide feed and water regularly
- keep any drinking water troughs free of ice for animals kept outside
- take water to animals regularly if any pipes or other water supplies are blocked
If you keep horses and ponies you must make sure that any you keep outside during winter have access to shelter at all times. If you can’t then you must move or permanently stable them.
Droughts and hot weather
You should have a plan for what to do if water supplies are interrupted. If supplies do fail you should identify alternative water sources, such as making arrangements with neighbours who have boreholes.
The greatest risk to animals from lack of water is dehydration. Young animals, housed animals on dry feed only, and lactating animals are at greatest risk.
To reduce the risk you can give your animals water from the following sources (best to worst):
- drinking water
- collected rain water
Talk to your vet about the risk of using alternative water sources and to find out if they need treatment.
If water is rationed
If you need to ration water you should meet the following daily minimum needs:
- milking cows - 38 to 52 litres (l)
- other cattle - 38 l
- horses - 20 to 45 l
- pigs - 4 to 11.5 l
- sheep - 6 l
- poultry (intensive) - 0.5 l
You may need to allow for more water for very young or old animals, or if the temperature or humidity rises
You can reduce the amount of water your animals need by:
- giving them less feed
- drying off any animals that are in late stage lactation
- ending egg production
If water is rationed you should avoid salt poisoning in pigs.
When you can’t get enough water
If you can’t get enough water to your animals then you should consider transporting the animals to areas where enough water is available.
As a last resort you should consider killing your animals humanely rather than letting them suffer.
Published: 9 April 2013
Updated: 3 June 2016
- Page updated to give detail on farm animal welfare.
- Re-ordered to reflect current seasonal risks.
- Routine seasonal review and update.
- Routine update to reflect summer weather.
- Further advice added in relation to pets.
- Minor text change.
- Added guidance for pet owners in the event of floods.
- Information added about disposal of animal carcasses in case of flooding.
- Content re-ordered to reflect the priority of seasonal risks.
- Includes updated and clearer advice on looking after pets in hot weather
- First published.