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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How Do Cows Stay Warm in the Winter?

I am definitely not a winter person.  I prefer the warmth and sunshine over cold and snow.  I'm sure you've driven by farms and have seen cows with a light dusting of snow.  Have you ever wondered how cows stay warm in the winter?

While some people think that it is best to keep them indoors, it's actually the opposite.  Beef cattle are able to produce a lot of muscle and fat, unlike dairy cows who are great at making milk, but have very little muscle and fat.  This muscle and fat serves as an "insulator" for the cooler temperatures.  Luckily, since they are outside all the time, they have a chance to adapt to the changing temperatures.  While the weather in the Midwest can be very moody, very rarely do we go from 85 degrees one day to 25 degrees the next.  It's a gradual change, so they have a chance to adapt.  Also, just like other animals, cows develop a winter coat in late fall and early winter to help keep them warm.  They will also huddle together in a group to stay warm.

So, what do we do in winter to make sure the calves are comfortable?

We check there water and feed several times a day.  We want to make sure the water doesn't freeze.  There are heaters on the water tanks to help prevent this from happening, but just like everything else, sometimes these break.  Also, if we have had a substantial amount of snowfall before feeding time, the bunks are shoveled out before the cattle are fed.  We like for them to have a clean dry plate to eat off of.  


Since they are using more energy to stay warm, there feeding rations may be changed to accommodate them. 

We've had a very mild winter thus far, but it has also been very wet.  We make sure that the barn is kept clean by removing as much manure as possible.  Also, dry bedding is a must.  When it is wet, the cattle are given fresh straw in the barn often.  As my husband says, "I like to have clean, dry sheets on my bed."  There you have it.  Our cattle are treated just as well, if not better than we are!

The calves have a barn that provides shelter to get them out of the elements.  It is an open sided barn and you can see the windows in the back.  Those help provide a breeze in the hot summer months while the barn provides shade.  We also have an older barn that some of our calves are able to seek shelter in.

Cattle are able to adapt to the cold weather, much better than I can adapt to it!  Stay warm everyone!


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