In our previous post, we described how fall and winter can really be tough times for livestock. Cold winter weather can be a real struggle for animals that have to stay outside most of the time facing freezing rain, sleet, snow, and storms. In this post we will discuss how you can save your pasture, keep your topsoil and grasses safe, and have a grazing ground for animals when spring arrives. We will also discuss how you can save your animals from the harsh winter weather, taking care of their special nutrition needs, and health concerns. Fall is already here and winter is right around the corner. Before the temperatures start falling and the weather gets too harsh for the animals, we must take some precautions and prepare the animals for the winter before winter arrives.
We are able to stay warm, put on a coat and drink some hot coffee or hot chocolate, but the animals are not able to do that. They rely on us for staying warm and healthy during fall and winter months. In order to make the cold seasons more bearable for the livestock, we must take extra precautions.
Here are some tips to help you manage your cattle and pasture and keeping them as healthy as possible during the winter and fall.
Winter pasture management
Successful livestock grazing depends on proper pasture management. It is necessary to maximize animal production as well as pasture production. It depends on how you keep your pasture and fields in the best conditions for your animals to graze. During late fall and winter, it is important that you maintain the fields properly and preserve the pastures as much as possible. If you don’t manage your pastures during fall and winter, there will not be enough pasture grass during the spring and summer for grazing. You want to save your pastures as much as possible during these times.
It is ideal to separate your paddocks with enclosures, so that you graze on one part of the pasture and let the other part grow and recover. During the winter, try to keep your animals away from frozen and wet fields as much as possible. Frozen grasses and soggy grounds cannot survive continuous trampling and grazing. Moreover, soggy and frozen plants might become dormant and grazing on them might compact the ground, making it difficult for plants to grow. It will also make the water filtration process of the ground difficult. Hooves of animals tend to loosen and take off the top soil.
Rotate your pasture, grazing on a part of the field that has recovered from grazing and allowing rest for the parts that have been over-grazed. If possible, separate a part of your pasture permanently for the winter, so that there is plenty of good grazing pasture during the spring.
Supply your animals with additional feed and supplements to provide them extra nutrition and to give your pasture more time to recover.
Preparing animals for bad weather
If you own a farm with a few different types of animals, it’s important that your animals stay healthy and get extra nourishment to cope with the harsh weather. Be sure not to overstock animals during the fall and winter, especially if you own a small farm, because you are going to have a shortage of feed on the fields. Overstocking animals can give rise to many unwanted issues. Most animals will suffer health issues when they are packed together too closely. Animals also need enough space to move. You do have to take special care of your cattle during fall and winter seasons.
Cattle need special care when the weather gets too cold or wet. Both fresh air and fresh water are important during the cold seasons. A good livestock care and pasture management system will ensure that your livestock stays healthy and productive during the cold and wet days of fall and winter. Animal management is also necessary to reduce cold stress among animals that will save your animals from getting sick and will also save you money. When days get very serious or gloomy, most animals will be reluctant to go outside, especially if there is not enough grass in the pastures to eat.
Assess the body condition of pregnant cows during the fall season before winter arrives. Feed your cows well to maintain a good health condition. Your cows will need extra energy and nutrition to cope with the winter weather to maintain health and fertility without losing productivity during the winter.
Thin cows get more affected by cold weather because the body fat protects them from cold. Weak cows may produce less colostrum and give birth to weak calves, less resistant to cold weather. Weather, body condition, pasture availability, crop residue, and age of cows need to be considered to determine the right amount of feed to be supplied to the animals. Nursing cows and dairy cattle may need additional nutrition for producing quality milk.
Store cows in groups based on their age and body condition. This will allow you to manage feeding and take specialized care for the animals that need it. You can target specialized feed for the weak and young ones, without overfeeding the rest.
Young cows will need additional nutrition for proper growth and reproduction, especially if they are yearlings carrying a baby. Two year olds, having their first calves weaned, also need special care. Close monitoring is necessary as they go through the harsh winter weather. Make sure that they are healthy and their body weight is maintained. Increase hay and supplements if they start to lose weight.
Cattle need additional nutrition to stay warm in the cold weather. Most cattle will reduce food intake and stand around behind windbreaks instead of grazing. Giving them some hay supplements will solve this problem.
Wind chills and wet weather can make cold weather worse for cattle. If they have winter hair, they usually do well until the temperature drops below the critical point, which is around 20 degrees F. Below that, cows need to intake more food for energy to maintain body temperature and compensate for the heat loss. You need to feed them more below 20 degrees F. For each two degree drop in temperature, increase one percent of food intake for cows, that is the general rule of thumb.
Provide enough windbreaks and shelter for the cows to stay warm and dry during cold and wet winter seasons. A three sided old cow barn with enough ventilation might work well to keep them above freezing temperature. Again we remind you to consult your local vet to check your animals for any special health concerns and checking the physical conditions of your sick animals. Also keep up to date with vaccinations, and check for parasite populations. Provide enough shelters, bedding and windbreaks during the worst of winter’s storms.
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Source: Sustainable Livestock Nutrition