Cattle generally can handle extreme winter temperatures, but certain conditions can put them in danger of hypothermia and frostbite. Wet, windy weather and inadequate forage can make cattle vulnerable to cold stress when temperatures plunge. Here’s why: A thick winter coat will insulate the animal when it’s dry, but once it gets wet, that coat no longer acts as an insulator. It’s then the animal must rely on its fat reserves to serve as insulation.
But if the cow is thin, there’s not much reserve from which to draw. That’s why it’s important to increase their winter feed – anywhere from 10 to 15 percent – to not only build up their fat reserves, but to provide enough food to generate body heat. When forage is consumed by a cow’s unique and complex digestion system, this fermentation process produces heat for the cow’s body so it can withstand extreme temperatures.
Who’s Most at Risk?
Old cattle, thin cows, or those with health issues are most at risk for hypothermia and need to be watched. Also most vulnerable are newborn calves, who don’t have the ability to produce as much body heat as adult animals. They also often are hypoglycemic, which means they have low energy reserves and electrolyte imbalances, according to the North Dakota State University Extension Service.
Make sure newborn calves nurse within the first two hours because the colostrum – the first milk produced by the mama cow after giving birth – contains a high level of fat that will provide energy to help keep the calf warm. Colostrum, of course, also boosts the immunity system to keep it healthy. Protecting the calf doesn’t stop there. A wet newborn could suffer frostbite within less than an hour, so it’s critical to keep them warm and dry, advises the extension service.
If you don’t have a barn or three-sided structure for animals to escape the wind, natural windbreaks, such as trees or brush, can provide adequate protection. Other solutions include placing large hay bales as windbreaks or attaching fabric windbreaks or boards onto fences or pens to slow the flow of wind.
Providing bedding is essential, for all animals, as well as newborns, because it insulates the animal from the snow and ice underneath its body, preventing hypothermia and frostbite. Bedding allows the animal to “snuggle” into it and lowers the body surface area exposed to the wind, according to the extension service.
Areas most at risk of frostbite damage are ears, tail, teats, scrotum, and distal parts of the limbs, especially hooves. Frostbite damage can range from minor injury to infertility and even death. Preventing frostbite is crucial, because treatment is practically impossible once circulation is lost.
Keep Cattle Healthy in Tough Winters
Keep your cattle healthy, strong, and resistant to dangerous winter conditions by feeding them our New Heritage Feed Co. line of all-natural, nutrient-dense, essential oil-infused feed. Essential oils play a large role in keeping animals naturally healthy by boosting their immune system and warding off health problems the natural way – without antibiotics or chemicals.
We developed New Heritage Feed Co. because we care about our community, our customers, and your animals. Our naturally-sourced and essential oil-powered feed makes for healthier, happier animals.