The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 5, 2014

Managing cattle in cold weather

By Mary Lou Hinrichsen
Herald Staff Writer

DEWITT — Loren Truelsen is president of the Clinton County Cattlemen’s organization. This is what he has to say about helping his cattle survive the kind of winter the area has been having this year:

“Snow is a pain, but it can be moved or placed out of the way,” he said, adding that the one exception about snow is if it gets piled upon along a fence and then freezes there. “Then cattle may walk right over a fence.”

“But cold temperatures are hard on the human body itself, making it hard to work productively. Keeping fresh water to all cattle is always a struggle in these frigid temps—unthawing waters if frozen, chipping or breaking ice on the water.

“Keeping the cattle as dry and clean as possible might take extra bedding. With extreme cold temperatures cattle may need to intake more energy in their everyday diet, so that would mean feeding them more corn or wet corn gluten.”

Truelsen said that as a cow-calf producer he tries to schedule the heifers to have their calves in February and the cows in March and April “so I have less chance of having extreme weather like this in those months.”

The Iowa State University’s extension beef program specialist, Denise Schwab,says the biggest impact is the additional stress on cattle from cold weather requires protection from the wind and more energy from their diet.

She said the lower critical temperature for beef cattle with a dry heavy winter hair coat is 20 degrees. For every degree of cold below that, the animal requires about 7 percent more energy to maintain their body.

“Without that additional energy in the diet, the animal will pull energy from other bodily functions, such as growth or pregnancy.

Wind chill also increases the need for more energy.

Schwab also said providing cattle with more forage also helps, because digesting forage increases some internal heat to help keep the animal warm.

An additional problem this winter for livestock farmers is a shortage of propane fuel. The Iowa Farm Bureau issued a bulletin Jan. 30 urging grain farmers to check their propane tanks on their grain drying for any residual fuel and if there is any to contact neighbors to inquire if their homes or livestock barns need extra fuel.

Young chicks and baby pigs are susceptible to harsh cold weather and farmers could lose some of the animals,

Dairy farmers also need propane to heat water for sanitizing equipment, the notice says.