ST. CLOUD, Minn. — With snow on the ground, it’s a good time to think about cold weather preparedness for pasture cattle. This has become an important topic after the tragic losses caused by winter storms around the country in recent years. Ten of thousands of cattle have been lost, and the economic impact on ranchers is still being felt.  

Although farmers cannot control the weather, there are many steps that can be taken to ensure pasture cattle are ready for the winter.

First, ensure there is some form of shelter or windbreak for your cattle. Whether it is a tree line or simple three-sided shed, cattle will actively seek out coverage from the wind-so it’s important to have something provided for them.

As the temperatures drop, cattle’s energy needs increase, as they need to work harder to keep themselves warm. Some cattle will eat twice the amount of feed they do in the warmer months. At the very least, ensuring there is a higher density of energy in the feed will help cattle maintain their body temperature.

In addition to feed, keep in mind that cattle still require a lot of water.  If you do not have a heated waterer, make a point to manually provide warm water several times a day to your cattle. 

Lastly, if you are expecting any calves in the colder months, make sure you are ready to promptly care for newborn calves. Keep expecting cows and heifers close, or check on them several times a day. Calves should be dried off as soon as possible to prevent hypothermia and other cold-related illnesses.

This article was submitted by Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension.