Carrington Research Extension Center


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Winter Management for Livestock


One of my favorite smells in this world is the smell of corn silage on a cold winter morning. 

As winter officially starts this Friday I will take this opportunity to remind us of a few management practices that will positively impact our livestock operations over the coming months.

Providing bedding and wind protection are critical to livestock performance during the winter in North Dakota.  Research at the Carrington Research Extension Center by Dr. Vern Anderson demonstrated the importance of bedding and showed that bedding feedlot steers increased average daily gains compared to non-bedded feedlot steers.

Freshly bedded steers at the Carrington Research Extension Center.

Access to clean water is the next item that comes to mind.  The NRC (Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle, 2016) states that limited access to water will decrease animal performance. Maintaining clean water fountains and preventing frozen water fountains are important tasks.  So while cleaning water fountains, chopping ice, or thawing those frozen water tanks isn’t anyone’s desired job, especially in winter months, it is a must in terms of livestock stewardship.

Pen scraping or cleaning would be another management strategy to consider.  Removing snow and manure during the winter may help to prevent muddy conditions in the spring.  Muddy and cold conditions increase the energy (feed) requirements of livestock. So take some time to consider pen conditions this winter and try to improve conditions for livestock this coming spring.

The final management practice I would like to mention is silage pit management.  In the livestock business, we are also in the business of selling feed, either directly or indirectly.  Facing out silage pits minimizes the amount of silage exposed to air, decreasing heating and feed spoilage, and saving feed and decreases costs.

For those of you wanting further reading on winter management of livestock, the North Dakota Agriculture Experiment Station and NDSU Extension have a publication on Winter Management of the Beef Cow Herd available at:

With that I wish you all a Happy Holiday Season!


Bryan Neville, Ph. D.

Research Animal Scientist

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