Long cold winter increases cold stress on herd

The recent deep cold snap and seemingly never ending wintery weather has made for tough conditions for cattle producers and their herds.

Alberta Ag-Info Centre Beef Forage Specialist Ken Ziegler says when it comes to western Canada, the cold is a very concerning issue.

Ziegler explains that there’s a critical temperature threshold for a cow where her thermal system has to kick in, over and above normal:

“When the temperatures get too low, and generally speaking we accept -20, at that point anything warmer than -20, and she is basically idling along and she’s got reserve heat that she loses through just plain heat loss. But when it gets colder than -20 that all has to become an issue,” said Ziegler.

Ziegler has advice when it comes to bedding.

“The larger herds will typically not bed the smaller herds, often times they will. Bedding certainly is necessary for the cow lying down. Especially for those animals that might not be as strong, that they don’t do so well standing up, bedding certainly adds a thermal layer. For those cows that are standing up, the fact that they’re standing on straw has very little effect to their whole well-being, body temperature wise.”

He also says exposure to colder temperatures means animal nutrient requirements are higher.

“For you to maintain body condition, that’s going to require a higher quality of feed. Typically barley is a possibility of course that adds expense.”

Ziegler says larger herds are able to build off each other’s body heat.

“If you get a group of 50,60,80,100 cows plus in a group, especially if they’re out of the wind, they can warm up their situation and build off of each other’s body heat quite nicely. Compare that then to maybe just a half a dozen, they don’t have the grouping effect that a group of cows would have. And so her size really plays into their nutrient requirements throughout the day.”

For more on this visit Alberta Farm and Animal Care’s website.