Goat coats, methane and lots of straw: How one animal sanctuary keeps its residents warm in winter

Jen Korz, executive director for Heartland Farm Sanctuary, gets some love from Sunflower, a Lamancha goat, with Sunflower’s daughter, Ash, at right. Their “goat coats” are one of many tools used to keep the farm’s 80 animals warm during the cold Wisconsin winter.

When the temperature falls at Heartland Farm Sanctuary in Verona, it’s easy to walk past a pile of straw and think nothing of it.

But give that pile of straw a poke, and three pigs cuddled up together under blankets emerge, curious whether they’ll get a snack before nestling back under the straw against the winter chill.

Real-life “pigs in a blanket,” they’re among about 80 animals being prepared for the coming cold weather at the sanctuary, which provides specialized care for rescued farm animals combined with educational and therapy programs for humans, aimed at engendering empathy and compassion.

The blankets are stitched by volunteers with First Unitarian Society in Madison. Other pigs get special earmuffs to keep their long, droopy ears warm and dry, with additional accommodations made to protect the emus, ducks, llamas and others animals.

While household pets get to curl up in laps or by the fire, the season poses a unique challenge for farm animals hunkered down at sanctuaries like Heartland, said Jen Korz, its executive director.

Heartland pigs

Pigs snuggle under blankets in a barn stall at Heartland Farm Sanctuary in Verona. The sanctuary’s pigs can use up to five blankets and plenty of straw in the wintertime.

“Farm animals have similar needs,” Korz said. “They need access to shelter. They need quality food. They need social relationships, and they need to have shelter.”

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