ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Cattle are remarkably durable, especially considering the temperatures that central Minnesota sees annually. When given enough time and support to adapt from a hot humid summer into an upper Midwest winter, they can perform well in nippy temperatures. Below are some strategies that can be implemented now for gradually transitioning your summer edition cattle into a hardy, winterized herd.
Throughout the year, cattle work to maintain a constant core body temperature of about 101ºF. As ambient temperatures shift from 95ºF in August into deep winter of -10ºF, we ask the animal to adapt. The same animal that was once cooling herself on hot days performs best when progressively acclimated. This process takes time and revolves around building up body condition, a protective winter coat, as well as having a conducive environment (away from wind, rain, etc.). When considering overwintering cattle outdoors, animals should remain outdoors continually, allowing the acclimation process to gradually occur (this applies especially now in central Minnesota). When given what they need (a bedded pack, shelter, and proper nutrition) as well as time to make that adjustment, cattle can perform well in winter tolerating temperatures well below zero.
As many a Midwesterner would agree, wind can be a force to be reckoned with. Even with a proper hair coat, and nutrition, cattle will often seek out windbreaks if one isn’t provided and prioritize getting out of the wind ahead of food and water in severe winter weather. Managers can utilize stands of trees, stacks of round-bales, buildings, or other man-made structures to act as effective windbreaks. Windbreaks should be relatively tall, and the material should allow a small amount of wind to pass through. This helps prevent a downdraft when the wind passes over the top of the windbreak.
The UMN Extension Publication Preparing Your Cattle-Severe Winter Weather shares:
“In extreme cold, cattle require more calories to maintain their body condition and stay warm. When the temperature approaches zero degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect to feed about 30% more than you would at temperatures above 32ºF “.
Managers can use cattle’s feed-seeking behaviors to congregate, then guide livestock to a desired location ahead of severe weather. Place feed behind your windbreak to encourage your cattle to stay there while simultaneously meeting energy requirement is a useful strategy.
By having a game plan to gradually transition cattle to changing seasons, managers can maintain herd performance, even in severe weather. The information for the above article was from UMN Extension (https://z.umn.edu/PreparingForSevereWinterWeather). Residents of Stearns, Benton, and Morrison counties can direct questions to either my email (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or call my desk phone at (320) 255-6169 x 3.
— Dana Adams, University of Minnesota Extension
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