Caring for cows in winter

While cows are fairly cold-tolerant down to 20 degrees F, take extra care when effective temperatures drop below zero.

February 8, 2021

1 Min Read
Snow covered cattle standing in front of a wind break
WINDBREAK: Windbreaks can be an important strategy to offset the impact of strong winds on reducing the effective temperature.Tyler Harris

Caring for cow herds during the winter can be challenging when it becomes bitterly cold. In general, cows are cold-tolerant and are comfortable down to 20 degrees F. Most cows are managed outside even under extreme conditions and can benefit from extra care when the effective temperature, ambient temperature and wind chill, drops below zero.

Windbreaks can be a key strategy to offset the impact of strong winds on reducing the effective temperature. Bedding is also a good management tool to minimize the effect of the cold on cattle and can be critical for neonatal calves, and to protect teat ends and scrotums.

Most importantly, provide additional nutritional energy to meet the cows’ needs to generate heat to maintain body temperature. Feeding cows in the late afternoon will help cows get through cold overnight temperatures as rumen heat production peaks about six hours after being fed. During periods of continual cold weather, cows will need about an extra pound of corn for every 10 degrees of cold stress below 20 degrees.

Be prepared to provide extra bedding and feed during major storms, and remember that severe weather may prevent you from easily getting feed to cows. Backup feeding areas may be needed. With a sustained power loss, you may also need supplemental ways to keep water tanks thawed out, and equipment may not be easy to start.

Talk with your local beef Extension specialist, veterinarian and nutritionist about what you can do to provide the best care for your cows during extreme weather.

Source: Iowa Beef Center, which is responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and its subsidiaries aren’t responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.


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