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Ideas for Watering a Winter Grazing Herd

By   /  October 8, 2018  /  1 Comment

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This week, The Classic by NatGLC answers a question that I hear from graziers quite often. What do you do about water in the winter, especially if your cattle are grazing the whole season? Here’s a solution from our northern neighbors who know a lot about dealing with cold and snow.

These Alberta ranchers have a variety of solutions. Some use frost-free nose pumps, others pump water, and some let the cattle use the snow around them.

It turns out, having water in each pasture isn’t necessary. “We start close to the water and as we move farther away, they have to walk farther. At the end, they have to walk a half mile,” says Darren Frank of Dercam Farms. Other ranchers second his observation and one notes that some cows are too lazy to walk in every day if there’s enough snow for them to use.

How do you know if your cows can manage with snow cover? Duncan MacMillan says that if your cows start licking at the first snowfall in the fall then you’re good for the winter. “But if you lose your snow in the fall and you have to go back to water, and then you’ve got to start them back on snow, that’s definitely hard on cows,” he says. MacMillan prefers using snow to water his herd, but cautions that you need enough quality snow.

This video is part of a series showing how Alberta ranchers approach winter grazing. If you’re ready for more, head here to check out the whole video series.

If you’ve got suggestions of your own, share them in the comments below. And if you have questions, share those too. If one of our On Pasture Community doesn’t have an answer, we’ll be happy to look for a solution for you.

Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible.

Have you registered for the Seventh National Grazing Lands Conference in Reno December 2 – 5? If not, be sure to do it before October 16 when prices go up!

It’s only $395 for you and an additional $175 for a spouse or friend!

Over 50 producers will be presenting on what makes their farms and ranches work. John Marble, Jenn Colby, Meg Grzeskiewicz and Kathy Voth will be presenting a symposium at the upcoming National Grazing Lands Conference. We’ll be talking about the skills farmers and ranchers need to succeed, problems we encountered because of a skill deficit, how we developed those we didn’t have and resources for building skills over time.


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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Kathy Voth says:

    The Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University contacted me with some additional information that is important for folks to consider if they’re thinking of using snow as a water source. You have to have good quality snow, and in many areas that’s not available. In addition, if snow gets dirty or icey, it doesn’t work as well. If you have a high concentration of cattle, mud, and lower overall snowpack, using snow as a water source is not an option.

    Thanks to the Iowa Beef Center for this clarification!

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