Cattle Health: Watch Out For Wet and Windy Conditions

US - Cattle welfare and body temperature are inextricably linked at this time of year and 30 degrees Fahrenheit should be the point at which to worry.
calendar icon 13 January 2014
clock icon 2 minute read

This is the advice of Aaron Berger, University of Nebraska, Extension Educator, who say that still and windy conditions make a difference to temperature comfort levels. 

"Cattle typically have a lower temperature comfort level at around 20 to 30 Fahrenheit under dry, still conditions," said Mr Berger.

When air temperature or wind chill drops below this threshold then cattle begin to need more energy from feed or use their own fat reserves in order to maintain body temperature, he added.

"Beef cattle in a Body Condition Score of 5 or higher will be able to handle cold stress better than thin cows as they have fat reserves to help insulate them from the cold and can also use that fat as an energy source.

"A rule of thumb is that for every 1 Fahrenheit the average daily temperature is below 30 a cow with a dry hair coat in a moderate body condition will have their average energy requirements go up 1 per cent."

He explained that wind chill and wet conditions can drastically increase these requirements. Cattle with wet hair coats under windy conditions may not be able to produce enough body heat to stay warm.

"Windbreaks can significantly help to reduce weather stress," Mr Berger advised. "Also, having a dry place for cattle to lie down can help ease cold stress."

For cattle in a dry lot or feedlot environment under extreme cold conditions for an extended time, bedding such as cornstalks or wheat straw can aid to reduce the stress of having cattle lay on frozen ground.

If additional supplemental feeds are needed to help meet nutrient requirements for beef cows on roughage diets in cold weather, consider using feedstuffs which are high in digestible fiber and energy dense. Distillers grains and soy hulls would be two examples of such feeds.

Last year Dr. Rick Rasby recorded a webinar - Caring for Cattle in Cold Weather - that provides additional information on management practices to consider when cattle are under cold stress.

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