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When It’s Cold, Cows Need More Feed

By   /  December 16, 2019  /  5 Comments

We think you already know this. But do you have the breakdown of how much more they need depending on the temperature, wind chill, and how wet or dry their coats are?

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This comes to us from January of 2018 just after an especially cold winter storm. Thanks to  Steve
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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. C Nickelson says:

    Kathy, what would the lower critical temps be for sheep? Wool/hair sheep? Dry/wet coat?

  2. Gene Schriefer says:

    Cows with a heavy winter coat have thermal neutral around 17 degrees.

    • Richard says:

      Agreed, Gene, that my dry cattle are comfortable to the teens with no wind, and are content with their normal stockpile and quality hay.

      But the current storm system has them (and me) thoroughly wet. Winds picking up and temps dropping all day. Rain passing through again and more bands to come.

      I’m sitting by the wood stove drying out, warming up, and could stand to drop a few lbs. But any cattle weight lost through this storm, by the more timid ones in my herd, it likely won’t be gained back for months.

      So the article Kathy posted has pushed me to get back out (between rains), move the polywire again, and feed more hay at the pasture edge. Thankfully the mud will be frozen hard in the morning!

  3. Richard says:

    Another strategy to limit heat loss: where possible, allow cattle to seek areas out of the wind, moving a bit if wind shifts during storms. Trees, hollows, ravines, brush, leeward sides of hills, etc. Given the chance, they’ll seek out those spots with the least windchill, the drier places to bed down, and conserve limited body fat.
    If I pay attention, they’ll teach me where they want to be in the worst storms of the season. If I plan ahead, can make those available again, and have hay nearby.

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