Take Care Of Those Cows

US winters can be harsh, and keeping cattle healthy becomes more labor intensive as the mercury drops.  Cattle may struggle to put on weight or maintain their normal level of milk production.

But cattle can thrive in the winter if they are cared for properly, according to an article from Zareba, a Canadian livestock enclosure company.  The care articles are meant to help producers deal with various issues on their farms or ranches.




Cattle often struggle to get enough water during the winter, Zareba said.  Veterinarians say cattle need one to two gallons of water per 100 pounds of weight, making water an important resource in any weather.

A novice may assume cattle can eat snow or lick ice to get what they need, but this is not the case, the article said.  Dehydrated cattle are more at risk for colic and impaction, so it’s important to maintain their water uptake.  With a regular water source, cattle will continue to thrive.




Cattle get cold if they aren’t fed well enough, Zareba said.  Without enough energy, they can’t generate enough body heat, their core temperature drops and death could follow.

The easiest, but often the most expensive way to keep cattle well fed in the winter is to switch to a feed with more nutrients, Zabera said.

Another is to find ways to feed cattle while limiting waste, Zabera said.  Scattering hay on the ground can waste as much as 50% of it – use feeders or a shelter.

The best option is to maintain a few fields of cold-hardy grass that cattle can graze through the winter, even with snow on the ground, the article said.




Life on the pasture normally is pretty good, but when a winter storm comes roaring in, getting to safety becomes a top priority, Zabera said.  Without it, cattle can stress over their well-being and panic.

Providing proper shelter for grazing cattle during cold weather is critical and can even reduce feed costs, since chilled livestock will have increased energy requirements, Zabera said.  Shelter can be three-sided sheds throughout pastures, hills, gullies, thickets of trees and shelterbelts.




Winter mud hits cattle in two ways: it’s the perfect breeding ground for foot rot and thrush, and it can be challenging for cattle to stay warm when they are caked in mud, even if the mud is only on their legs, Zareba said.

Adding gravel or woodchips to muddy areas can help, as can rotational grazing to limit the chances of an overgrazed pasture turning into mud.




The USDA reported formula and contract base prices for live FOB steers and heifers this week ranged from $137.00 to $138.57 per cwt, compared with last week’s range of $136.74 to $139.41.  FOB dressed steers and heifers went for $214.60 to $217.14 per cwt, versus $213.43 to $218.04.

The USDA choice cutout Thursday was down $1.69 per cwt at $281.46, while select was off $3.10 at $276.47.  The choice/select spread widened to $4.99 from $3.58 with 116 loads of fabricated product and 18 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.

The USDA reported that basis bids for corn from feeders in the Southern Plains were steady at $1.40 to $1.55 a bushel over the Mar futures and for southwest Kansas were unchanged at $0.20 over Mar, which settled at $6.16 3/4 a bushel, down $0.05 3/4.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $159.25 per cwt up $0.32.  This compares with Thursday’s Mar contract settlement of $166.72 per cwt, down $0.15.