Cold Weather effects cattle feeding plans

Cold Weather effects cattle feeding plans

Jim Neel, University of Tennessee

Each year during cold weather cattle producers are faced with the same question: This year will it pay to adjust feed levels for my cows during cold weather?

In 2006 the answer is yes. Jim Neel, a professor of animal science and beef cattle specialist with University of Tennessee Extension says the amount of additional feed to account for the cold weather events should be equivalent to about 125 pounds of corn per cow, or about 2 bushels of corn per cow.

“The advantages of such ration adjustments would be economically favorable with current grain and feed prices less than $2 per bushel,” he said. Neel says previous studies have shown that pregnant beef cows exposed to cold weather require more energy for maintenance.

“For example, at Kansas State University pregnant cows have been shown to gain as many as 115 pounds over a four-and-a-half month period if their ration was adjusted for cold weather as opposed to cows who put on just an additional 26 pounds when their rations were not adjusted for the weather,” he said. Neel also said cows who are fed rations adjusted for cold weather add approximately 10 pounds from fall to the following fall, following calf weaning, while those whose rations are not adjusted can lose 90 pounds or more.

“Cows fed adjusted winter rations also tend to cycle faster,” Neel said.

Dr. Neel further states that producers can gather lots of useful information by simply observing their cattle. He calls the technique “managing by wandering around,” and he recommends that producers make it a habit to observe their cattle.

“One of the first things producers can observe is the body condition of their cows,” Neel said. “Cows in a ‘thin’ body condition will have more difficulty calving, will experience reduced milk production and will have reduced reproduction success.”

Neel recommends livestock producers maintain cows in “good” condition — i.e., maintain a body condition score of at least 5 — to ensure effective performance.

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