It’s been a strange start to winter in many parts of the country, with unseasonably high temperatures in the upper Midwest, and snow near San Diego. Rest assured, winter is coming, one way or another. Even if you haven’t been hit by a cold snap yet, it’s always best to be prepared. Here are a few tips for taking care of your cattle throughout the winter months.
Beef Magazine stresses the importance of fall and winter early feeding. It’s vital to make sure cattle herds have proper nutrition throughout the winter months. How you deliver nutrition to cattle will vary based on climate and geography. In perpetually snow-covered areas, cattle will not be able to graze freely. It’s important to develop a plan that works for your herd and location. “With adequate condition at the start of winter and good maintenance throughout, most animals winter well,” says James England, University of Idaho DVM. “But, without adequate nutrition, anything else we do is set up for failure.”
In addition to proper nutrition, Beef magazine also says, “To help cattle maintain health and body condition during winter, vaccinations should be up to date, parasite populations assessed, and cattle dewormed and deloused, if necessary.”
Sufficient shelter is important in many regions. In warmer climates, sufficient shelter may include adequate fencing. But in colder regions, Southern States suggests including tree belts, thickets, three-sided sheds and even pole barns in your plans, depending on conditions in your part of the country.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is proper hydration. Just as humans tend to get dehydrated in the winter when we’re not out in the hot sun working up a sweat, we may also overlook cattle hydration. Zebra Systems lists water availability for cattle at the very top of their suggestions for keeping cattle healthy in the winter. Cattle need 1 to 2 gallons of water per 100 pounds of weight, and they’re just not going to get that amount of water from licking snow or ice. Monitor your cattle and make sure they’re getting enough to drink, and don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated as well.
Ultimately, cows are hearty animals. They handle cold weather much better than we do. They have thick skin and grow longer coats in the winter. You don’t need to coddle your cattle, but you do want to make sure they’re well-fed, well-hydrated, and are getting proper nutrition.