winter feed intake for cows

Are You Increasing Your Cows’ Feed Intake In Cold Weather?

As I write this, it’s a whiteout outside my house. Blustery 30-mph winds and blowing snow have created ground-blizzard conditions. Our cattle spent the morning grazing cornstalks, but now are tucked tightly behind a windbreak waiting for the storm to pass. Availability of such shelter is extremely important, but when adverse weather conditions hit [3], it’s also important to increase the feed intake in your cattle.

According to J.J. Barrett, a West Virginia University Extension agricultural agent, cold weather [4] can increase livestock’s feed intake up to 30% due to the increased maintenance energy requirements.

"Livestock will need more feed to combat cold stress during this harsh weather [5]. Access to water, shelter from the wind and extra bedding will help until a warm-up occurs. As a general rule, healthy animals in good body condition that are acclimated to cold weather and have a good winter hair coat will do fine until the ambient temperature drops below 20°F. Below that, animals must compensate [6] for heat loss by increasing their energy intake, to increase heat production and maintain their body temperature,” Barrett said in a recent interview with NewsandSentinel.com [7].


Subscribe now to Cow-Calf Weekly [8] to get the latest industry research and information in your inbox every Friday!


When the temperature drops, and its snowy [9] and blowing, it’s important to consider the cow’s body condition score and the quality of the feed being offered. Depending on the weather’s severity, a decision to increase the feed intake for the cow’s energy requirements may be called for.

According to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension [10], “If the total digestible nutrients (TDN) requirements of the cows are 12 lbs. of TDN/head/day for this week, you would consider bumping the ration to 15.5 lbs./head/day. This is an increase of 3.5 lbs. of TDN/head/day. If grass hay is 57% TDN, that’s an increase of about 6 lbs./head/day on a dry matter (DM) basis. If the hay is 88% DM, that would mean each cow receives an additional 7 lbs./head/day. If these cows were being fed 24 lbs./head/day under current conditions, could they eat 31 lbs./head/day during the harsh weather condition? For a 1,200-lb. cow, this calculates to about 2.3% of her body weight on a DM basis.”

Do you increase feed intake [11] when the weather gets bad? How is the weather in your neck of the woods? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


You might also like:

10 New Farm Trucks To Consider For 2014 [12]

6 Resources To Help You Succeed This Calving Season [13]

60 Stunning Photos That Showcase Ranch Work Ethics [14]

Open Cows? Lepto Might Be The Culprit [15]

Why Your Ranching Operation Should Be Business-First, Not Family-First [16]

10 Reasons Why I Want A Cowboy For A Son-In-Law [17]