During the recent sub-zero temperatures, I was woken in the dead of the night by an indignant horse.

Fortunately, he had not trotted up the stairs to seek warmth under the duvet, but was giving his water trough a good kicking beneath my bedroom window.

I may have been sleepy but it did not take me long to work out the reason for his belligerence. In a few short hours his water supply had turned to ice and he was not amused.

I reasoned that dehydration would not be an issue with an inch of snow on the ground so I attempted to snuggle back under the goosedown for a couple more hours sleep with the intention of sorting out the problem in the morning.

But there’s nothing like the welfare of an animal in your care to tug on the conscience. Sleep eluded me and it was an early start with ice pick in hand and bale of hay on back.

This was a single horse needing my attention so it did not take long, but the pressure on livestock farmers with hundreds of mouths to feed is immense when conditions get tough.

Every job becomes a battle. Farmers must gently coax frozen milking parlours into action before their cows can be milked. And once that job is done and the milk is in the tank, the icy roads might be too treacherous for collection tanks to negotiate, so that hard-earned milk could well be wasted.

Some processors advise farmers to insure their milk so they can claim compensation if collections cannot be made, but rural insurer NFU Mutual said three-quarters of the UK's dairy farmers have neglected to do this.

Livestock have the ability to graze through snow but they need additional feed to make up for the shortfall. Looking after hungry stock becomes a labour-intensive struggle.

With temperatures plummeting, water troughs must be defrosted and bedding cattle becomes time consuming when the netwrap is frozen or covered in snow.

But whatever the weather, livestock will always be fed and watered, because with very few exceptions, farmers and people with animals in their care will put the needs of their stock above their own — cantankerous horses included.