If this winter's storms have been hard on your cattle – and your pocketbook – there are things you might about do to improve cattle comfort and performance yet this year, and for sure by next winter, says Warren Rusche, South Dakota State University Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist
•Provide more wind protection: Reducing the wind speed from 20 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour or less will reduce maintenance energy requirements by as much as 30%. "Temporary windbreaks are very well suited for feedlots as they could be removed during the summer months when maximum air movement is desirable," he says.
•More and better bedding: North Dakota State Univeristy researchers at the Carrington Research Extension Center in found that cattle that were provided bedding gained faster (0.86 pounds increased average daily gain) and more efficiently than their non-bedded counterparts. These cattle also had increased carcass weights and a greater percentage grading Choice. "These researchers also found that the type of crop residue used can affect performance," Rusche says. There was a tendency for calves bedded with corn stalks to consume less dry matter from the ration compared to cattle bedded with wheat straw, resulting in slower gains in those calves. "If cattle producers have both straw and corn stover available, there may be an economic benefit to dedicating straw supplies to bedding and using the corn stover as a roughage source," Rusche says.
•Better water and feed delivery: Extreme cold temperatures can test the limits of both people and machines like very few other weather conditions. "Consequently, delivering feed and keeping water available can be a challenge. Successfully accomplishing both tasks is critically important to maintaining acceptable animal performance. Being prepared as much as possible ahead of forecasted winter storms will help keep storm-related disruptions to a minimum," he says.
•Better management of feed intake. Cold temperatures generally tend to increase feed intake. However, intakes can be reduced during severe cold stress and wind chill because cattle become reluctant to leave shelter to come up to the bunk or feeder. Any adjustments made to feed deliveries should be made conservatively to avoid digestive upset. Rations that are based on large amounts of low-quality roughage may need to be adjusted or supplemented with higher quality feedstuffs to ensure that energy intake is adequate. A ration that may work under "normal" conditions might not be sufficient during severe cold stress.
•More pen maintenance: As much as possible, remove snow that accumulates in the pen or lot. This winter's snow becomes next spring's mud, so reducing the amount that builds up in the pen will correspond to faster drying when the snow melts. Removing snow and ice from around waterers and bunk lines will provide better footing for the cattle and easier access to feed and water.Source: SDSU