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Cold Weather Cow Care

Winter brings a special set of challenges for cattle producers.

Winter brings a special set of challenges for cattle producers. The need for labor and management increase just as forage quality, feed availability, and hours of daylight available to get things done decrease. Just in case this doesn't offer enough of a challenge, this is also calving season when we are bringing into the operation the product we will have to turn into profits in order to be here next winter.

The first consideration each day in wintertime livestock care should be water. Water is the first limiting nutrient and although daily intake goes down in cold weather, adequate consumption every day is still vital.

Cows can't utilize frozen water. They may be able to meet part of their water requirement on a temporary basis by eating snow, but they also expend calories melting the snow and warming it to body temperature. If you water your cows in ponds, be sure to cut ice at least once daily. Feed the cows in the area where you have provided access to the pond water, so they can find it before it freezes again. When cattle are thirsty they walk out on the ice, especially if it has snow on it, and can fall through in a bunch when they encounter thinner ice near the center of the pond.

If you water your cattle in tanks, be aware that extended cold weather may result in a tank full of ice with no room for water. One producer painted the south sides of his tanks black to absorb more solar energy. While it didn't completely solve ice problems, it worked well in marginal conditions and helped slow the ice buildup in extreme cold weather. Another idea that has been used successfully is to secure a large, black inflated inner tube in the tank where the cattle can drink out of the hole in the center. The water in the center of the tube will remain open except in the most extreme conditions.

If you use automatic waterers, check them daily to avoid catastrophe. They can only meet the water requirements of the cattle if they keep working normally. If a heater quits or a lid doesn't close properly, they can freeze up fast. With electric waterers or tank heaters, be careful for shorts or bare wire. Stray voltage of only a few volts can cause cattle not to drink.

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Another article of interest to check out is, Winter Cow Care.