Vet Notes - Weather the Winter

Dr Josh Beutler presents monthly Vet Notes

Cold weather, wind and even piles of snow are arriving throughout the Midwest, the Great Plains and the Western Mountains. Slightly early cold and snow is a blunt reminder that as cattle producers, we need to get our cows ready for winter management. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind with cattle management over the winter months:

1)    Monitor herd body condition score (BCS). Now is a necessary time to make sure cows are in adequate condition. Cattle in poor condition heading into winter will struggle to maintain enough energy for themselves, yet alone for the growing calf in utero. Lower BCS in cows leads to subsequent poorer quality colostrum and poorer calf health.

2)    Vitamins and trace minerals are incredibly important. These products play a vital role in cow health and fetal development. Vitamin A deficiency is the most common factor in weak/stillborn calves that I see. Most mineral options contain adequate sources of Vitamin A, and some of the most common formulations are available as ADE, vitamins A, D and E; or CLR supplements, formulations intended for key phases of production such as calving, lactating and rebreeding.

3)    Protein is key. This macronutrient is incredibly important in the last trimester of gestation for the fetus to adequately develop. Protein supplementation comes in a variety of forms — tubs, alfalfa, cake or good quality winter pastures. Assess the protein quality in feed by consulting a nutritionist or veterinarian to sample the product. 

4)    Monitor snowfall. As snow accumulates, it can affect feed/forage quality and will obviously restrict grazing. Cattle are very capable of grazing through snow, but as it melts and hardens, layers of ice challenge grazing ability. 

5)    Manage the storms. Provide wind breaks and bedding, if needed, that can double as roughage to help supplement rations. Extra supplementation is usually needed to get through cold and wet weather.


About the Author: Dr. Josh Beutler graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in veterinary medicine, before moving to Pender, Nebraska, where he practices in a five-person, two-clinic practice. He practices mostly beef production medicine with cow-calf and feedlot operations throughout northeast Nebraska. Beutler also works closely with his family on a fourth-generation SimAngus cow-calf herd.

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