cold stress cattleWinter officially begins this week and with that comes the necessary precautions to keep cattle warm during this season.  As winter persists, a main rule applies to cattle, for every degree that the effective temperature (the temperature felt by the body) is below; the cattle’s energy needs to be increased by one percent.  Cattle’s critical temperature is between 20-30 degrees F.  If the temperature falls below that then the cattle starts to compensate for heat loss and starts using up energy.  When this happens the cattle start to demonstrate cold stress, making it important to take preventative measures so that the cattle are warm this winter.

When it comes to cattle’s temperature and cold stress, ranchers and producers need to factor in wind speed as it can dramatically drop the temperature and determine the effective temperature.  When cattle experience cold stress they begin to require more energy.  For example, if the effective temperature is 17 degrees F, the energy needed for cattle with a dry winter coat is around 15% higher than they would be under more moderate conditions.  If their coat is completely wet and matted down with mud, the cattle’s energy requirement jumps up 40% under the same conditions.  

One way for cattle to respond to cold stress is to increase their feed intake to increase the cattle’s entire metabolism increases in activity.  It’s important to make sure that with increased feed intake there is also water available.  If the availability of water is low then the feed intake should be reduced.  Be aware of any digestive upsets when diets are changed.  Though this action will increase feed costs, in the end the cattle will maintain their body weight. 

There are some thing ranchers and producers can do to curb the effects of cold stress. 

  •     Watch the weather! Watch the temperature and if needed increase feeding to help the cattle respond to the cold weather.
  •      Protect them from the wind.  Get them the barns if the winds are bad.  Remember wind can reduce the effective temperature thus increasing cold stress in the cattle.
  •      Keep the cattle clean and dry.  Wet and muddy coats only make room for more problems with cattle trying to stay warm.
  •      Feed more hay and grain.  Just note to monitor any digestive changes when adding more.
  •      Water is a must.  If you increase feed you need to increase water intake.

A well put together program to get cattle ready for winter and avoid cold stress can save money and lower the number of sick cattle.  It’s best to be prepared.  We can’t change the weather but we sure can adapt to it and prepare.





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