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Keeping Cattle Healthy During the Cold Winter Months

Cold weather can take a toll on livestock. That is why cattle management is so important this time of year.

When temperatures hit a critical low, cattle must use extra energy in order to remain warm. Through the middle of the winter, the coat on cattle keeps growing. When cattle are covered in their heavy winter coat they can usually do well until the temperature drops to lower than 18 F. When temperatures drop below that point, energy demands increase.

Keeping cattle warm in extremely cold weather requires feeding a greater amount of energy-dense livestock feed. Feeding cattle at night also is recommended since the heat generated from digestion helps cattle endure cold, winter nights.

When cattle are exposed to cold, moisture and wind, real problems begin to occur. If there are no natural windbreaks, one must be made. A permanent or moveable wind fence is one good option.

While there is no problem when cattle have a dusting of snow on their coat, the danger comes when moisture soaks through to the skin. At this point, the critical temperature rises to near 60 F. When cattle are wet, bedding is essential since it keeps cattle dry.

Bedding can be made up of straw, corn stover, old hay or even wood chips. If you have calves, bedding is essential to keeping them healthy and thriving. Calves lose heat easier than cows and have less fat. For calves housed in a barn, approximately four pounds per head a day is usually enough. If they are bedded outside the amount should be doubled.

Cattle should always have clean, fresh water available at all times. While snow may be considered a water source, this is only true in emergency situations. Snow used as water must not be crusted over with ice and it is important to keep in mind that some animals will not eat snow. Also, thawing and heating melted snow to body temperature reduces the energy resources of cattle. If using an automatic water foundation, you may want to consider insulating the inside of the housing and the concrete slab it sits on.  

Finally, remember that animals whose general health is not what it should be will need special attention to survive and remain productive during any weather conditions but especially a harsh winter. Cattle are capable of adapting to cold temperatures if fed appropriately and adequately protected.

 

Posted By: The Hay Manager

Posted on: 11/17/2016
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