Winter Barn Maintenance Tips

Idaho is home to approximately 25,000 farms and ranches and over 2.1 million animals. Winter is just around the corner and barn maintenance is crucial to keeping livestock safe from the cold and equipment protected from the elements. Here are a few tips to help maintain your barn this winter.

Inspect your barn and make repairs

Before the temperature drops too low or snow starts to fall be sure your barn is structurally sound and in good overall condition. Inspect the following:

  • Windows, including sills, panes and framing
  • Stalls and doors, including locks, hinges and door frames – oil them if need be
  • Ventilation and surrounding areas like ducts and fans
  • Foundation and walls, being mindful of gaps, cracks and other openings
  • Roof – make sure it can handle the next snowfall without buckling or leaking

Seal holes and cracks

After identifying gaps or cracks in the barn, fill them with caulk. Make sure there are no holes for rodents to sneak through as they can damage equipment and contaminate animal feed. Cracks and holes will also cause cold air to seep into the barn, so you’ll want to seal as much as you can.

Clean your barn

As cold weather approaches, it is wise to do a thorough clean. A barn with debris, cobwebs, bird nests or excess hay can cause fires and means extra places for rodents to hide. Additionally, sweep and wash the floors, walls, stalls and mats to reduce the risk of disease spreading among your livestock.

Prepare heating systems

Depending on the size and type of your barn the heating system will vary, but regardless of what type it is, you’ll want to check that it’s fully functional before winter comes. (If you’re in the process of selecting the right heater for your barn, here’s an article to consider.) For forced air heaters, be certain your filters are clean, and for gas-fueled portable heaters inspect that hoses and attachments are all in good condition. Take a look at all your ducts and make sure they are clean and allow airflow throughout the system.

Check barn ventilation

Poor ventilation can cause respiratory illnesses in animals, so it is of utmost importance that your barn is properly ventilated. That means maintaining healthy airflow when it’s cold out, which aids in preventing dust buildup due to drier winter air. A tell-tale sign the ventilation needs to be reassessed is windows that form condensation.

Clean shutters, inlets, ridge vents, and other circulation systems and don’t forget to replace dirty filters and maintain any intake or exhaust fans.

Check water system and plumbing

With temperatures dropping below freezing, it is crucial to winterize your barn’s water sources and other plumbing. Insulate pipes and consider adding heat tape to water pipes. Lastly, be sure your livestock watering system is in working order and that trough, water tank and other water heaters are in tip-top shape, examining them for leaks and rust spots.

Plan ahead for snow removal and waste management

To avoid a flooded barn come the springtime snow melt, think ahead as to where you will pile snow and manure. Consider everything you’ll need for snow removal if there is a big storm, such as portable generators, extra fuel, and enough animal feed. Keep enough supplies on hand in case you cannot travel for several days.

Winter can bring unexpected problems for farmers and ranchers, so being prepared for the most extreme situation is the best approach when planning in fall. To learn more about how to protect your farm or ranch contact your local FBICI agent.

Disclaimer: The information included here is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts.


Idaho State Department of Agriculture
The University of Vermont
Horse Journals
Farmer Boy
Red Master Harrow