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Keeping cattle warm in frigid weather

Keeping cattle warm in frigid weather

Some thermometers read -35 C (-31 F) on Wednesday

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Farmers in Western Canada are facing extremely cold temperatures this week.

In some parts of the Prairies, the mercury dropped into the -30s C (-20s F) as of Wednesday morning.

Those freezing conditions could pose challenges to livestock producers and their cattle as the cold will increase a cow’s energy needs. If the cow isn’t consuming enough feed to meet those needs, the cow will use nutrients from its body, which could result in lower body weights.

Increasing a cow’s daily feed can help ensure the animal is receiving enough feed to keep warm, said Catherine Lang, a livestock feed and extension specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture.

“We often recommend increasing the amount of grain or pellets that are fed per head per day, by one pound for every five-degree drop below -20 C (-4 F) at midday,” she told Farms.com. “So, for example, if it was -35 C (-31 F) at a midday temperature, we would advise to increase the ration by additional three pounds of grain per head per day.”

Farmers should also try to limit the amount of straw the cows are eating and replace it with a high-quality forage. And it’s important to keep in mind that cows shouldn’t eat more than seven pounds of grain or pellets at one time, Lang said.

Ranchers are doing all they can to keep their livestock warm this winter.

Tim Sekura, a rancher from Rocky Rapids, Alta., where the temperature hit -35 C (-31 F) by 10:00 a.m. local time Wednesday, outlined some of the steps he’s taking to protect his cows from the cold.

“We’ve got shelter, lots of bedding and extra feed,” he told Farms.com. “If you look after the cows properly then they should be able to handle these temperatures. It’s not much different than people. If you bundle up before going outside in the cold you should be okay. If you go out in this weather with a light jacket, you’re not going to be able to stay out there very long.”

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