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Lower Critical Temperature for Beef Cattle

One of the most critical factors that determine the impact of temperature on beef cows is wind chill. The lower critical temperature (LCT) for beef cows with a heavy winter coat is 18 degrees F. Below that point, cows must burn energy to maintain body heat, which means that additional energy must be provided to avoid body condition losses. The rule of thumb is to provide an additional 1% of TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients) for each degree below the LCT. Using the chart below, a temperature of 25 degrees F with a 20 mph wind results in an effective temperature of 4 degrees F (14 degrees below the LCT).

Lower Critical Temperature Table Under normal conditions, 1,300 lb. cows require approximately 12.7 lbs. TDN in late gestation. In this example, energy requirements would increase by 1.78 lbs. due to cold stress (12.7 × 1.14 = 14.48 lbs. TDN required). For forage containing 56% TDN, cows would require an additional 3.2 lbs. on a dry matter basis (1.78 lbs. TDN needed ÷ 0.56). During extended cold temperatures, particularly when cattle are wet and cold, it can be difficult to meet additional energy needs with forage Providing windbreaks and bedding are two ways to reduce the effects of wind chill.

For more information, check out the NDSU Extension Winter Management of the Beef Cow Herd publication.


Filed under: Feeding
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