Cold temperatures significantly raise energy requirements in beef cattle, with those increases being magnified by factors such as undeveloped winter hair coats, wet hides and wind. If the necessary feed energy isn’t provided, cows may struggle to maintain a healthy weight through the winter.
BioZyme has come up with several tips for beef producers to help manage cold stress in cattle and ensure that their herds are being adequately fed during winter months.
Producers should make sure to feed higher quality hay throughout the winter, expect cows to increase intake, and consider investing in a forage analysis. Without analysis, there is no way of knowing a hay sample’s exact energy level, or if it is providing adequate nutrition. BioZyme offers complimentary hay testing and nutrition analysis to producers. More information is available online.
During winter months, consider feeding a supplement, such as BioZyme’s Amaferm, that improves feed digestibility, ensuring that all possible energy is extracted from the feed.
Make sure cows are housed in locations that offer protection from the wind and wet weather. When the wind chill drops below 59 degrees Fahrenheit, the energy requirements for beef cattle increase about 3% for each degree, with wet conditions leading to even bigger increases.
Try to match forage quality to an animal’s specific nutrition requirements, and sort animals into groups based on body condition to help feed available forage more effectively. Heifers and thin cows require a more energy-dense diet, and need higher quality, more immature forages. Older cows, as well as cows with a higher body condition, can be fed more mature forage.
Feeding 3-6 pounds of energy supplements, such as soyhulls, corn gluten feed, or corn, can help avoid weight loss during the stressful winter months.
Keeping cows in good condition throughout fall and the early weeks of winter will help to insulate cows and minimize the amount of feed required later in the winter season. Early cold stress, if left unchecked, can have a snowball effect on a cow’s body condition, so be sure to take an honest evaluation of body condition early, and match your feeding program to the needs of your cows.