Managing cold stress in cattle

The bitterly cold temperatures combined with snow and ice are putting more cold stress on cattle. 

Purdue University animal science professor Ron Lemenager says the more the air temperature declines, the more energy – or calories- cattle need.  “If you have cows with a dry winter hair coat, and they are in good body condition, the energy requirement goes up by 13 percent for every 10-degree drop in wind chill below 30 degrees Fahrenheit,” he says.  And if cattle are wet-hided or aren’t in good body condition, Lemenager says their energy requirements go up 30 percent for every 10-degree drop in the wind chill. 

He tells Brownfield it’s not as easy as just feeding more hay.  He says producers will need to supplement to create a more nutrient-dense diet.  “The nutritional adjustment in terms of increasing energy by feeding higher quality hay or supplementing,” he says.  “I really like soybean hulls as a feed, and the reason why I like soybean hulls over corn is that it doesn’t bring any starch to the table. Corn would bring starch and if we start feeding too much corn, it will drop the rumen pH and drop the fiber digestion and the hay digestion goes down.” And, Lemenager says producers should continue to feed the higher quality diet for several days once temperatures get above 30 degrees.

Other things to consider during this cold snap are additional windbreak protections and making sure cattle are properly bedded.

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