Preparing beef cows for winter conditions

Winter is critical to beef cow operation success.

To minimize the effects of adverse weather conditions, cow-calf producers should plan ahead as much as possible and ensure cows come through the winter in good conditions.

To minimize the effects of adverse weather conditions, cow-calf producers should plan ahead as much as possible and ensure cows come through the winter in good conditions.

The winter of 2013-14 is fresh in the mind of most cow-calf producers. Many producers experienced severe condition that started in October in the Dakotas and lasted until May in many states. Cold stress, mud and marginal feed quality and supplies lead to significant losses in many areas and nobody wants a repeat of last winter. The seasons are changing and it appears winter is arriving early again so it’s time to get your planning done.

To minimize the effects of adverse weather conditions, cow-calf producers should plan ahead as much as possible. Michigan State University Extension emphasizes some key management considerations to ensure your cows and bulls come through winter in good condition. Consider the following management practices to reduce winter stress on your herd:

1. Develop balanced rations with available feed and supplement when necessary.

  • increase ration TDN to meet additional energy needs during adverse weather events
  • consider feeds like Distillers Grain (DDG) to increase energy and protein
  • mange feed resources to keep the best quality feeds for late gestation and lactation

2. Shelter is a luxury in this business but can be beneficial during severe conditions.

  • provide dry bedding areas with corn stover or similar crop residues for cows and bulls
  • provide wind breaks that can be accessed by cows during adverse weather

3. Control of internal and external parasites based on optimal calendar dates for your region of the country. 

4. Body condition score all cows and monitor monthly to assess their status and group cows and heifers based on nutritional needs by age and body condition.

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