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Montana Ag Network: Keeping Cattle Healthy and Strong during Winter

Cows in the winter
Posted at 8:58 AM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 11:00:45-05

The mild fall weather we’ve been enjoying has been replaced with cold temperatures and snow for much of our region. Montana State University Extension beef cattle specialist Megan Van Emon reminds ranchers to make sure their meeting their livestock’s nutritional needs during weather events like this.

“The big one we want to keep in mind is that rule of thumb that for every degree below 32 degrees, we increase our requirements by one percent” said Van Emon. “The rule of thumb is energy requirements. The big thing I want to want to keep in mind for that is that's all requirements. Everything goes up when the weather turns to a lovely winter like it has today. But, with this change and whether it's the mother cows and those freshly weaned calves we really want to keep an eye on because they're coming off the high stress of weaning.”

She says quality of hay is also a big factor in keeping cattle healthy especially those mother cows.

“Right now, we're still in mid-gestation and that fetus really isn't putting a lot of extra demand on that cow yet” said Van Emon. “We're kind of getting into that time frame so we can still feed a little bit of that lesser quality hay. I would definitely supplement it with a hay in that 10 to 11 percent protein. And never underestimate range cubes, lick tubs however you can help them get those protein requirements. That our big concern this time of year and in the winter are those protein requirements because our pastures are probably in that four to five percent protein range.”

Fresh and clean water is also important she says in helping cattle with their feed intake but also keeping them warm during these cold and snowy conditions.

“Fresh clean water is extremely important to keep intake of feed up, and that's what they need to do to make sure they stay warm as our temperatures drop” said Van Emon. “That rumen is its heat source. So, making sure they consume those fresh quality water sources is really important during these type of weather conditions.”

If ranchers have questions about their cattle’s nutritional requirements, they can contact their local MSU extension agent or animal health nutrition expert.