Preparing animals for bad weather

Several states in the Midwest are getting ready to experience some crazy weather today.

I am a transplant to tornado country, and I don’t think I will ever get used to the danger associated with it. I can count on just a few fingers the number of times meteorologists have provided weather warnings days before the storm, and this is one of those cases.

weather map
The potential storm area.


While we can’t always prepare for natural disasters, there are times, like today, where we have a glimpse of what to expect. I want to visit with you on how to care for animals in severe weather.

Companion animals – 

– Often loud noises can scare our companion animals, and they may be more difficult to find in a time crunch if they are hiding under a bed, in a closet, or some other small space. Our companion animals can pick up on our moods and emotions, so do your best to remain calm. Your pets will probably exhibit signs of stress which may include vocalization, panting, crouching, or hiding. Be careful around pets as they may be more aggressive and inadvertently bite or scratch you in their distressed state.

– Try to have a plan if you need to evacuate or move to a safer structure. Assign the people in your home tasks. For example, one person would get the pet, another would get necessary supplies (i.e. leash, carrier, food, water, etc.), and a third would keep everyone moving in the right direction and on task.

– If you are  evacuating to a public shelter, you will need to check prior to the event to make sure your pets can come; there may be restrictions that you will need to abide by (i.e. leases, muzzles, cat carriers, current vaccination records, etc.).

– DO NOT leave your pets behind. They will not have a good chance of survival and being reunited with them after the event may not be successful.

– Have a plan in place for someone to take care for your pets if you are unable to do so or are out of town. This could be a neighbor, a friend or family member. Knowing that your pets are in good hands in a crisis situation is important and provides peace of mind.

– If your pets are outdoor animals, make sure they have a shelter to go to (i.e. shed, barn, or building). Hail can be very painful and possibly life threatening if not provided shelter. DO NOT leave them chained up, let them off the chain so they can have a chance to get to a safer location.

Here and here are some other tips for caring for your pets in bad weather!

My cat, Cali, was not a fan of waiting out the last tornado warnings in our closet.


Livestock animals

– Livestock animals are tuned in to picking up changes in barometric pressure. Have you ever seen a group of cattle huddled together or running for no reason? They are usually pretty savvy that atmospheric changes are happening and they are doing what their instincts tell them. If you work livestock when they are more high strung than normal because of weather changes, it is important to move slow and remain calm as the animals may not be acting like they normally do.

– Livestock animals should have some sort of weather protection. This may be a building or covered facility or it even may be a tree grove. It is important to note that animals should not be locked into a building that cannot withstand strong winds and/or damaging hail.

– Hail can be very dangerous for livestock. Look at what it does to structures and cars. It can leave big bruises and welts on livestock, and in some situations may be life threatening. It is important to make sure your livestock can get somewhere that protects them from hail. If your livestock have been in a hail storm and they are market ready, you will need to wait to harvest them as a bruised carcass will receive significant price reductions.

– Have a disaster plan in place in case the worse case scenario happens. The time spent working on it will pay dividends.

– If you have animals in a small pen, you may want to let them into a larger area so they can have a chance to survive if necessary. If this is not possible, you may consider taking them to a facility where they would be better protected or could have access to more room.

– If your animals need to be released for survival, it is important to ensure you have a way to identify them later. This may be brands, ear notches or tattoos, ear tags, or some other means of identification that is specific to you.

Here and here are some other tips for caring for your livestock animals in bad weather!

The tree line in this photo can offer great protection from the elements.

Remember, your life is irreplaceable – do not put yourself or your family at risk to save your animals!


The Perfect (or darn close) Leg-of-Lamb

Since Lamb Lovers Month is nearly over I thought I would do a post on how to prepare the “Perfect Leg-of-Lamb” (or darn close to perfect). If you haven’t yet tried lamb, I encourage you to do so. If you are hesitant on preparing it, prepare it like you would beef! It can be expensive, but with the guidelines I provide below and those recommended by the American Lamb Board you will be on your way to becoming a great lamb chef!

CheersI have 5 rules to eating/cooking lamb (and really these can be applied other species too) – these are very important!!

1. The lamb you eat must be young (under one year old – ideally 7-12 months old)! Lamb gets a bad rep because they used to serve mutton to persons in the military years ago. Mutton is old sheep and the meat is tough, has a strong flavor, and most people generally do not find it desirable. When the troops returned home, mutton (aka lamb) was off limits in the house. This has been a hard habit for the sheep industry to break…

2. It must be eaten HOT – not warm or warmish, and certainly not cold! If eaten cold, the fat in the meat kinda sticks to the roof of your mouth… So eat it HOT and by-pass that situation.

3. Lamb and garlic go together so nicely. Think of this dynamic partnership as powerful as macaroni and cheese, milk and Hershey’s chocolate syrup, or peanut butter and jelly (you get my drift).

4. Do not overcook lamb! Lamb is best at medium to medium well (should still be slightly pink). Overcooking it will dry it out, and make your eating experience not so desirable! Again, cooking lamb will be very similar to cooking beef.

5. Lamb and red wine are also very complementary. Cooking with wine adds such great flavors. If you are nervous about cooking with wine (kids, pregnancy, etc.) the USDA provides figures on the percentage of alcohol remaining of the original addition. In the case of slow cooking a leg of lamb, you can see that less than 5% of the alcohol would be left after the cooking process. If you are uncomfortable with wine, water will work just fine.

Alcohol Burn-off Chart
 Preparation Method  Percent Retained
alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%
alcohol flamed 75%
no heat, stored overnight 70%
baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%
Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture:
15 minutes cooking time 40%
30 minutes cooking time 35%
1 hour cooking time 25%
1.5 hours cooking time 20%
2 hours cooking time 10%
2.5 hours cooking time 5%

Chart source.

Cooking lamb was passed down to me by my mom, and now I am passing the leg of lamb recipe onto you. You will not be disappointed.

Lindsay’s Perfect Leg-of-Lamb


Leg-of-lamb (our butcher cuts the leg in half, which is awesome for two people or a small family. But for a whole leg you would follow the same guidelines – except adjust your cooking time/temperature)

Garlic cloves (lots of it!)

Red wine/Water

Onion soup mix packet

Vegetables as desired


Completely defrost your leg-of-lamb.

Peel your garlic cloves.

Leg-of-lamb with garlic cloves

Heat a frying pan to hot (medium high to high).

Meanwhile, in the leg make “+” cuts about 1 to 1 1/2 inches into the meat with a knife, you will shove the garlic into these cuts. Add as much garlic as you find desirable (note: the garlic flavor is not as strong in the cooked garlic as it is in the raw garlic).

Make a “+” and insert garlic into the lamb.
You can see I added a lot of garlic!

You are going to sear your leg-of-lamb in the hot frying pan. Searing will quickly cook the exterior surface of the meat, this helps keep the juices inside the meat. Depending on how lean your leg-of-lamb is, you may want to add a little oil. I generally do not, and instead put the fattiest side down first. Do not put your meat in the hot skillet and walk away, you will need to be there watching it and turning it. You will only need to sear each side for about 30 seconds, make sure you get all sides and flip it up so the ends get seared too. Sometimes the shape of the leg-of-lamb will be awkward, just do the best you can.

Searing the leg-of-lamb.

Once the exterior is seared, you will transfer the leg to your crockpot.

Turn your crockpot onto to low.

Next mix together approximately 3/4 cup wine (water works too) and the packet of onion soup mix. I use whatever wine I have on hand (i.e. shiraz, cab, a blend, malbec – although never a sweet wine).

Onion soup mix and wine.

Poor this over the top of the lamb in your crockpot. Put the lid on and let it cook. I let this cook for about 6.5 hours. Again, the American Lamb Board has some good guidelines on how long to cook lamb cuts. Also, using your meat thermometer will help gauge how it is cooking.

Looks yummy!

Since I cooked this over the weekend, I added vegetables a few hours into the cooking process rather than throwing it all in there at once; as I would do on a work day. When adding vegetables I put the “hard stuff” (i.e. potatoes, carrots) on the bottom and then add the rest. This is a great time to clean out the veggie drawer in the fridge too!

This time I used carrots, celery, green onions, and bell peppers. You can use whatever you have on hand.

Once your lamb is done, let it sit or “rest” before you cut into it. When meat is cooked the muscle fibers will shrink and the moisture moves to the outer part of a cut of meat. If you let that meat rest for 10-20 minutes before you cut into it, that moisture will seep back into the meat – resulting in a juicy meat experience! Be sure to cover it with foil so it stays hot. Once you cut the lamb, you will notice the garlic. Serve it up with the lamb, it is delicious. I usually don’t make a gravy, but if you do, the juices from the crockpot would be excellent.

Look at all of that garlic!
Leg-of-lamb, vegetables, and fresh made bread!



Spicy Lamb and Potato Curry

Since it is Lamb Lovers Month and because I love lamb, today I bring you a favorite Indian curry recipe! The hubs and I love the cookbook easy indian, by Das Sreedharan – always delicious and user-friendly! The best thing about this recipe is that you can modify it to fit your tastes and availability of ingredients.

This recipe calls for lamb, but you could use beef or chicken instead. Every year for Christmas my parents provide us with a cut and wrapped lamb (I know, an awesome gift!), so I throw the neck and ribs into the crockpot to cook, then separate the meat from the fat and bone.

Although the neck and ribs are not the meatiest parts of the lamb, they are flavorful and are great for curries and stews!

Together in a deep frying pan combine oil, garlic, peppers (I used Serrano), ginger (I usually get the packaged stuff so it lasts longer), and cook several minutes. Add the onion.


Add spices (it calls for curry leaves, since those are not readily available to me, I just use curry powder), tomatoes (I had some frozen ones from my garden I used instead of fresh ones), potatoes (I cubed a large baking potato), water, and lamb – if using raw meat. Since I used previously cooked meat, I just let the vegetables and spices simmer without the meat for a bit.

When the potatoes are nearly tender add the lamb and let simmer for several minutes until the flavors combine.

I like to serve this with Naan Bread or over rice. Yum!


Spicy Lamb and Potato Curry

Serves 4-6

5 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I usually never use this much)
1 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped (pre-packed works too)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (a big fan of garlic, so I add more)
2 green chillies, chopped (add more for extra spice)
15 curry leaves (can substitute with curry powder)
1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and sliced
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground chili powder
3 tomatoes, sliced
14 ounces boneless lamb, cubed
7 ounces baby new potatoes, scrubbed (if using large potatoes, cube them)
1 tsp. mustard seeds (I substituted dry mustard)

1. Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in saucepan. Add ginger, garlic, chilies, and 5 curry leaves. Sauté for 3 minutes or until the ginger and garlic are golden brown. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes until lightly browned.
2. Stir in ground coriander, turmeric, and chili powder, mix well. Add tomatoes, lamb, and 14 ounces water. Simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Stir in potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until lamb is cooked and potatoes are tender.
4. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in small frying pan. Add the mustard seeds, when they start to pop add the remaining 10 curry leaves and stir well. Pour mustard seed/curry leaf mixture over the lamb mixture, stir briefly, remove pan from heat.
5. Serve with Malabar parathas or other Indian fry bread.


February is Lamb Lovers Month!

I just received an email from the American Lamb Board saying that February is Lamb Lovers Month!

Lamb lovers

No doubt many of the meat industry groups will share similar sentiments in the coming weeks. But seriously, nothing says love like the sizzle of meat!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know I love to eat lamb! So I will profess my love for it. You can too!

To state your love for lamb and have a chance to win prizes, you will need to write a love letter! Three winners will be chosen weekly throughout February to win a prize package, which includes fresh lamb for a home cooked romantic meal.

So whether your love for lamb is in the early courting stages, or you have many years of love under your belt, send your letter in today confessing your love of lamb!

No holiday “bummer” for this gal

Meet my Mom, Terri. She is feeding a bottle of milk replacer to a bummer lamb. A bummer is an animal that has lost its mom and needs to be cared for by us, their human caregivers. This lamb has a bottle 3-4 times a day in addition to eating hay, she is growing like a weed!

bottle feeding bummer-final


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A day in the life of a sheep rancher…Fun Fact Friday

This morning on my drive to the office I called my folks. My Mom was filling me in on the adventures of her lambing. Lambing is what it is called when the ewes (pronounced “you”) have their babies. My Mom has about 70 head of ewes, and a ewe is a female sheep. A ewe can be bred to have babies at eight to 10 months of age. Her gestation length is five months. A baby sheep is called a lamb.

sleeping lambs
A set of twins (not the ones I will tell you about) sleeping on a warm straw bed under a heat lamp.

Yesterday a ewe had twins (which is very common for sheep), but they were born outside, and the ewe didn’t clean them off very good (when an animal has babies they lick them to remove all of the embryonic fluid and dry them, while doing this they also “talk” to them by making low noises, which stimulates them to stand and nurse), and the lambs got very cold. So the lambs were taken into the lambing barn and put under heat lamps. It is VERY important for all baby animals to receive the “first milk”, which is called colostrum. Colostrum contains proteins, peptides, and high levels of antibodies (these are the highest in the first milking), which aid in building a strong immune system enabling babies to fight possible infections. A new born baby does not carry antibodies since they do not pass through mother’s bloodstream into the placenta, but the lamb (or any other baby) can get these antibodies in the colostrum!

A lamb tuber with a very soft latex tube – used to feed colostrum.

Since the lambs were not yet strong enough to stand and nurse on their own, the ewe was milked out by hand. The lambs were then tubed. In the sheep world, the feeding tube is a large disposable syringe that has a very soft latex tube that is slid down the lamb’s throat, past the esophagus, and into their stomach. This would look very much like a feeding tube that a human would have, but this is not permanent. The colostrum is put into the syringe and then once the tube is in the lamb’s stomach, the milk is dispensed and the tube is removed. This causes them no pain. Ensuring that the colostrum gets into the lamb’s system as soon as possible can mean the difference between life and death! A newborn baby may need to be tubed several times before it is strong enough to stand and nurse on its own. While the mother’s milk is ideal, sometimes a powder replacement is used or colostrum that has come from another ewe can be used ( it can be frozen and slowly thawed for later use).

The lambs didn’t show much improvement after receiving colostrum, so they were taken into the house, yes the house that my parents live in, and put in front of the wood burning fireplace to warm up. This can be a common occurrence for livestock ranchers. Just like people, animals can get chilled to the bone and have a hard time warming up, so a toasty fireplace is a good place to go. We have had many lambs and calves (baby cows) in the house growing up. This is just what you do when a baby has gotten really cold or just isn’t getting off to the start you hoped it would. I can remember several times when we brought calves into the house, and after coming back in when chores were done we have found the calf has gotten up and has been walking around the living room!

Yesterday afternoon the lambs were taken back out and put back into the heat lamp and straw warmed pen with their mom. Additionally, the ewes put off a lot of heat since they have a thick wool coat! My Mom shared they both made it through the night! Yay. Today the lambs will receive help standing and may need assistance in finding the ewe’s teat to nurse, and they may even need to be tubed again just to make sure they are still receiving the nutrients needed to be healthy and out of the danger zone.

Most lambs are born with no problems and never need the extra assistance from us as their caregivers. But if they do need that extra attention we are always there to provide it, both in and out doors!

A lamb sleeping in its mom’s hay tub!

Rumination Facination…Fun Fact Friday

Last week I mentioned ruminants. Ruminants include cows, sheep, goats, llamas, camels, deer, and many, many more. As I mentioned they also chew cud (which is a chunk of food they regurgitate and chew again breaking down the particle size; this process is called rumination – but more on that later ).

Most people often believe that ruminant animals have four stomachs. That is not entirely true, they have one stomach with four compartments. In the photo below you can see the four compartments: Rumen, Reticulum, Omasum, and Abomasum – each one has a different role, but I will go more into that later.

142097_ruminant_digestion(Photo source: Ruminant Digestion)

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why ruminant animals can eat grass and hay and humans can not (we are monogastrics).

Sheep grazing (Photo source: Sheep grazing)

Toothless grins…Fun Fact Friday

Did you know…

Ruminant animals (animals that have one stomach with four compartments and chew their cud; includes cattle, sheep, goats, lamas, etc. – will explain more later) do NOT have teeth on their upper jaw?

Well, technically they have premolars and molars in the very back of their mouths on the upper and lower jaws, but no teeth upper front teeth. Instead they have a dental pad, which would be hard, slick surface.

Photos used in blog(Photo: Virginia cooperative Extension)

So how do they eat? Glad you asked! The part of their mouth where the upper teeth would normally be is called a dental pad. When they take a bite of grass they wrap their tongue around it and use the dental pad and their bottom teeth to bite it off.

So how do the young animals nurse you ask… They wrap their tongues around the mother’s teat and use pressure from the dental pad to suck.

cow's mouth 2_edited-6 This is what a cow’s mouth looks like – the dental pad on top and teeth on bottom only! (Photo:

I know, very cool stuff!