Cattle Need Special Care During Cold Weather
Courtesy of University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — February’s cold temperatures require the state’s livestock producers to make adjustments to their regular management procedures to keep their animals healthy. Cattle health, in particular, is of great concern as the state ranks 13th in the nation in beef cattle production with a statewide herd of approximately 864,000 beef cows.
Justin Rhinehart, University of Tennessee Extension beef cattle specialist, recommends cattle producers adjust their feeding regimes to fit the conditions in their area to help their animals weather the cold. “For a 1,200 pound cow with a dry winter coat, the TDN, or energy requirement will increase 1 percent for every degree drop in wind chill below 32⁰F. If the cow is wet, the increase in energy requirement is 2 percent for every degree below 59⁰F,” he said. “Basically, this means cows will increase their hay intake and producers need to make sure they are putting more hay out than usual and refilling feeders more frequently.”
producers feed the highest quality hay they have on hand. “Most of our hay in Tennessee does not have enough energy to accommodate this increased feeding requirement during extremely cold weather, so feeding an additional energy source is recommended,” he added. The expert recommends supplementing hay by adding grain and oilseeds, like corn or cottonseed, commodity feeds like soyhulls or dried distillers grains (DDGs), or commercially produced feed supplements.
There is a downside to changing the feeding regime, however. “Be careful not to provide too much of some of these supplements, as it could lead to digestive issues,” Rhinehart said. He recommends that supplements be hand-fed daily rather than provided as “free-choice.”
In addition, producers should not feed more that 5 to 6 lb/head/day of corn, DDGs or whole cottonseed. They should gradually increase the supplements to the maximum over a few days, Rhinehart said.
For those who have access to a Master Beef Producer manual, Chapter 5 provides a thorough description of managing cattle nutrition during cold stress. Others should contact their local county UT Extension agent for additional information. Other resources include the UT Extension website: extension.tennessee.edu. Just click on the top link to “publications” and enter the search term “beef” or “cattle” to see links to UT Extension resources. Additional resources are also available online at the national extension website: extension.org
The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.