Getting Your Livestock Run-In Shelter Winter-Ready

Cold weather is already here, and your animals surely feel it. Be sure to inspect your run-in shelter with these tips before heavy animal use this winter.

by Anna O'Brien
PHOTO: Alan Bernau Jr/Flickr

Run-in shelters, also called loafing sheds, are great for livestock, especially horses, that spend most or all of their time on pasture. With the weather turning cold and wet in many parts of the U.S., it’s not too late to get your run-in shelter in tip-top shape for your animals with the following considerations.

Clean Out

Depending on how often your animals use your run-in shelter, the space can fill with manure and old hay. In preparation for potentially heavy use in colder, wetter weather, give your run-in a thorough clean out. Toss soiled substrate and take a good look at the foundation.

  • Has there been uneven wear?
  • Are there indications of drainage issues?
  • Any holes, ruts, or other damage?

Also examine the bottom of the walls of the structure once debris has been cleared away. Are there any sharp edges that need to be fixed or loose panels that could snag a hoof?

Read more: Barn ventilation is important, especially in winter. Here are some tips to keep air moving.

Roof Check

While you likely shouldn’t have to get on top of the run-in shelter, take a good look at the roof from the inside.

  • Are there signs of leaks?
  • Is there any light peeking through, indicating cracking?
  • From the outside, does anything appear loose?

Depending on the design, many run-ins do not have gutters. But if yours does, when was the last time they were cleaned? Are there trees near by that would contribute leaves or blown branches?

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In wet weather, observe where and how the rain runs off the roof. If it pools excessively in a certain spot, consider installing a downspout to divert the run off or a rain catcher to inhibit the creation of large pools that will convert to icy patches when the temperature dips.

Space Check

Has the size of your herd grown recently or since the last time a run-in was used? If animal numbers have increased, evaluate whether they will all have space in the run-in at the same time.

Space requirements in a run-in aren’t as large as for a barn and depend on the species. Talk with an agricultural extension agent if you’re concerned about spacing issues for your particular needs.

Wall Check

From the inside of the run-in shelter, look for any popped nails or screws. Is there any brittle or broken siding? Splintered or cracked wood?

Bring a hammer or drill and tighten down anything that looks slack. Weather from the outside and the rustle of animals on the inside can easily turn a mildly loose board into a broken or missing board in no time.

Electric Check

Many run-in shelters are simple structures without water or electricity. But if yours has lights or heating elements, double check the wiring.

Frays, chew marks, long and dangling wires, or anything else out of the ordinary should be repaired before heavy use in the winter.

Read more: Check out these tips for keeping uninvited “guests” out of the barn.

Critter Check

Now’s the time to tear down those old fly strips from the summer and check for empty hornet nests. Clean these out now so you don’t have to worry about them in the spring. Also take a peek for rodent issues as well as termite damage.

Obstacle Check

Is your run-in shelter near any trees with branches that may potentially fall in strong wind or with ice? Are there any trees that may need trimming before the weather turns? Is there anything that may get in the way of reaching the run-in on foot or via vehicle?

Making sure animals and humans have easy access to the shelter in all kinds of weather can ensure your herd has the protection it needs this winter.

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