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Winterizing Your Herd - October 2020

Winterizing Your Herd

It’s the time of year when everyone is busy with fall harvests, corn silage, snap-lage, corn, beans, etc. It’s also the time of year when temps will begin to fall and the white stuff will begin to fall from the sky. That means its time to start getting your cattle geared up for winter weather too.


Calves start becoming susceptible to cold stress when temperatures fall below about 55 degrees. Some can even be susceptible with temps less than 70 degrees. So it’s time to start providing calf coats, particularly for your youngest calves to help reduce the amount of energy they need to stay warm. By reducing energy needs for warmth, calves are able to put the nutrients and energy they receive into growth and immune system health. This promotes healthier, stronger calves through the winter months, and in the future can also lead to better reproductive health and more milk production in their first lactation compared to calves that don’t. As the temperatures continue to get colder you can keep coats on calves as long as needed, even up to weaning to continue to help promote weight gain.


As we’ve began to realize in more recent years, calves get the majority of their energy needs met through diet in the form of milk. As temps drop and energy demands go up, it’s also important to make sure that we are feeding calves a little extra milk as the weather begins to cool down. This can be accomplished by adding an additional feeding in the middle of the day and/or adding and additional quart of milk to their milk feedings. While feeding more milk may seem like more costs, it will cost more to treat calves for scours, pneumonia, or have a calf die than to make sure they are getting enough calories when they need it most.


Housing will be getting closed up to provide wind blocks and allow for a warm area for cattle to rest on cold nights. For older cattle, as well as young calves, respiratory issues can become a big issue in the winter when barns are closed up. In these barns, consider installing a positive pressure ventilation tube (PPVT) to be able to bring in fresh, clean outside air to dilute out any stagnant air in barns and pens where the cattle rest. Bacteria and noxious gases like ammonia build up in the bedding and air and as cattle rest, they breathe in this dirty air which combined with any stressors can cause pneumonia. Young heifers that get treated for pneumonia are more likely to be culled before entering the milking herd, produce less milk in their first lactation and over their lifetime and more likely to have fertility problems. PPVT are relatively inexpensive generally costing $1000-2000 per tube. This may seem like a lot up front but with a reduction in pneumonia cases treated, this cost can easily and quickly be recouped.


If you have questions or want to discuss ways to improve heifer and cow health through the winter months, we are here to help.


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