There seems to be a lot of buzz about this winter being a cold one here in North Texas. Most of us are still reeling from the “snowpocolypse” that hit us hard last February. This had us thinking, how can we be prepared for the cold months? For many ranchers, our cattle is a massive investment. And we have to protect that investment.
Here are 4 tips for keeping your cattle warm and happy throughout the cold winter months ahead.
Cattle require anywhere from 10 to 30 gallons of water per day. These numbers can vary greatly depending on the outside temperature and whether or not the animal is pregnant. Because they require so much water, cattle can spend their entire day licking snow off the ground and still not meet their daily water requirements. Even if we don’t get the snow, ice cold water will drastically lower their body temperature and increase their energy needs, meaning they will need more food to stay healthy. Always provide cattle with ample unfrozen water each and every day, along with plenty of hay.
Apart from feeding cattle ample food grain and hay in the winter, it is recommended that ranchers make sure that there is enough head space or bunk room so all cattle have room to eat. It’s recommended that ranchers separate animals into different feeding groups based on their individual nutritional requirements. For example, pregnant cows should be kept separate from the group to ensure that they’re getting enough of their daily ration from the hay bales.
Keeping mineralized salt blocks available and out of the elements will help supplement the hay bales and other food set out for livestock. Cattle can tolerate cold temperatures if there is enough food for them and if the temperature isn’t below freezing.
The Lowest Critical Temperature (LCT) for animals varies according to species, but 32 degrees Fahrenheit is approximately the lowest temperature dry cattle can tolerate if there is little to no wind present. If the temperature dips below that or if the cattle are wet, cattle and other livestock will require additional food and water to meet the minimum energy demands to support normal body temperature. You should plan to feed more than normal and up to double the normal ration if temps are near freezing.
Shelter & Bedding
In the event of a freeze (especially when coupled with wind chill), shelter should be considered. Sheds with at least three sides, large mounds and hills, large fencing with at least three sides, or a close by a thicket of trees can all protect cattle from harsh wind and low temperatures. There should be enough space for cattle to move to prevent overcrowding and trampling. Bedding will help keep cattle warm and insulated, but it should be kept as clean and dry as possible.