Winter storm creates additional challenges for cattle producers

A beef extension educator says cattle producers need to take extra steps to prepare for the extreme weather expected with this winter storm.

Ron Lemenager with Purdue says making sure cattle have access to water is priority one. But when it comes to feeding, when the windchill drops below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the energy cows need for maintenance goes up significantly. “If you have a cow that’s in moderate body condition with a winter hair coat and her hair is dry, the requirements go up by 13% for each 10-degree drop below 30 degrees,” he says.  A drop in windchill from 30 degrees to 0 degrees would mean cows need a 39% increase from the animal’s normal energy requirements.  And if cows are thin, he says the requirement goes up to 30% per 10-degree drop.

He tells Brownfield his other reminder for producers during this type of weather event is to provide protection from the wind.

“If you can provide protection for those cows,” he says. “And it could be a natural windbreak, or maybe it’s moving cows along the tree line somewhere, or where there’s a set of buildings that could provide some protection that the cattle. And then obviously if you have the luxury of any of them to move cows into a sheltered area.” However, Lemenager cautions producers against putting too many animals into one area.  “The humidity then goes up and the cattle become subject to respiratory infections, and that becomes an additional set of challenges in this cold weather,” he says.  “I’d rather have cattle outside with a windbreak than inside with a high humidity situation.”

Because this cold system isn’t expected to last long and is followed by warmer temperatures, Lemenager says producers will need to monitor herds for any symptoms of respiratory infections.

AUDIO: Ron Lemenager, Purdue University Extension

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