Winter weather tough on cattle, cattle producers

News
Feb 20, 2009
by WLJ
Winter weather tough on cattle, cattle producers

The extreme cold and record snowfall in parts of the northern Plains has been hard on cattle and cattle producers this winter.

Cold stress increases the energy requirements of cattle, according to Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist. Producers can take these steps to mitigate the effects of the cold: Provide protection from the wind. Cattle can acclimate to colder temperatures, but wind exposure increases their energy requirements.

Providing some form of man-made or natural wind protection will help. Provide bedding during extreme cold. Frostbite is a real danger when the mercury falls. Providing bedding will reduce the possibility of frostbite. While newborn animals are at the greatest risk of frostbite, adult animals also can be affected in extremely cold conditions. Extremities such as ears, tails and feet can be susceptible to frostbite. In addition, teats and scrotums also can be frozen.

Provide additional energy. Cold and wind increase the animals’ energy requirements. A rule of thumb to consider is that a cow’s energy requirement can increase by 1 percent for every degree below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (including wind chill). One way cattle compensate for colder weather is to increase feed intake.

However, cows have a physical limit on how much they can consume. Once that point is reached, they will need better-quality feeds and supplements to compensate for the increased energy requirement. When adding energy in the form of cereal grains, be sure to meet the cows’ protein needs as well. Thin cows are more susceptible to cold stress. If possible, sort off thin cows and feed them separately.

Cattle aren’t the only ones affected by extreme cold. “Remember to consider aspects of your own personal safety when caring for your livestock,” Lardy advises.

“Cold conditions and wind can create dangerous combinations for humans as well. Don’t take unnecessary risks when extreme weather hits. Be prepared with plenty of cold-weather gear.”

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