NDSU Extension - Sargent County

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Winter Management for Cattle

Winter Management for CattleWe have been fortunate this winter to have relatively mild conditions compared to average years.  Despite the challenges with COVID I think we can all say we have enjoyed the nice weather we have been given so far this winter. 

Beef cattle adapt to colder temperatures gradually by growing longer hair and changing their metabolism.  Cattle producers can ease the harsh winter conditions on cattle with proper planning and good management practices, such as providing adequate nutrition.    

Cattle should be provided with some sort of protection from the wind. Much like we don’t like being outside on a cold windy day, neither do cattle.  We have the luxury of taking shelter in our homes, cattle rely on shelterbelts, wind fences or other portable fencing options provided for them. 

Proper bedding is important for cattle during cold winter conditions as well.  Suitable bedding helps to keep cattle clean and provide insulation from the cold frozen ground.  Clean, dry bedding is important to ensure for adequate calving conditions in the winter.  It provides a clean dry place for calves to be born and protects their udders from infection and frostbite.  Keeping pens free of ice buildup around watering areas is critically important for providing proper footing for the cattle to avoid slips and falls. 

Adequate cattle nutrition is important for reducing the risks for long-term impacts on your cattle and herd health.  Nutritional management in the fall will help to prepare cattle for the winter.  Making sure they are receiving a sufficient quantity and quality of feed before winter conditions will help them have a buildup of some fat reserves and not be trying to gain body condition score in the bitter cold.  Feed intake and an increase in total digestible nutrients in cattle is needed as temperatures decrease. Proper sampling of forages and feed will help you to know your current nutrient uptake levels and if adjustments to rations will need to be made.      

Less than adequate water quality and feed intake and nutrient content of rations for beef cows could have short- and long-term consequences. Beef cows are capable of adapting to cold temperatures and maintaining condition if fed appropriately for the environmental conditions and provided protection.  If you have questions about winter management for cattle contact the NDSU Extension Office. 

Source: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/livestock/winter-management-of-the-beef-cow-herd

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/cow-winter-snow-farm-outdoor-2086883/ (downloaded 1/29/21)

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