Cold Weather Feeding
Colder weather means livestock need more energy to be able to withstand harsh winter conditions.
The best way livestock producers can ensure they provide their animals adequate nutrients is to work with their nutritionist making sure the feeding program matches up with the current weather conditions.
Cold temperatures, low wind chills, cold rain or muddy conditions can significantly increase the energy required by livestock metabolism to provide enough heat for the animal to maintain its body temperature and yet grow and/or product milk.
Forages make up a major component of a ruminants diet, however, all forages are not equal. Producers have to realize that forages have a lot of variability, so if they really want to have the best idea of the nutrient value of their forages, they must get them tested.
Animals have a thermoneutral zone – a temperature range in which the animal is most comfortable, is not under any temperature stress, and which is considered optimum for body maintenance, health and animal performance. But when livestock experience cold stress below the lower boundary of that zone, they reach lower critical temperature (LCT), and the animal’s metabolism must increase in order to keep warm.
The severe cold will increase the metabolism of the animal in order to maintain body temperature. In order for the animal to do this, it requires more energy either from stored fat or more energy intake in the diet.
Generally, energy intake must increase by 1 percent for each degree of cold below the LCT.
Proper feed sampling is very important. To get a good forage sample for testing, producers along with their nutritionists can follow these tips:
- For dry hay, always use a forage probe to gather samples. Test at least 10 bales.
- Sample lots of hay separately. A lot of hay could be defined as hay of similar species content, harvested at a similar maturity and ideally from the same field and/or from fields harvested on the same day or within a couple of day span.
- When sampling ensiled forages such as haylage or corn silage, taking hand grab samples from the face of the bunker silos is not recommended due to safety concerns. Use a loader bucket or face shaver to create a pile of silage on the floor of the bunker.
- When sampling silage bags, hand samples can safely be taken from the face of haylage or corn silage.
Remember to work with your nutritionist for all your livestock whether they are calves, heifers, steers or cows.
Brant J. Groen
Director of Dairy Wellness - Form-A-Feed, Inc.
Brant retired in 2010 after 34 years as the Dairy Management Instructor at Ridgewater College, Willmar, MN. When Brant retired from teaching the Dairy Management Program at Ridgewater it was the largest two year dairy program in the U.S. Brant has continued on with his passion for the dairy industry by joining the Form-A-Feed team as the Director of Dairy Wellness.
Through Brant’s years of teaching, Brant was fortunate to develop a broad base of knowledge including specialties in nutrition, breeding and reproduction, raising dairy replacements, dairy facilities/milking equipment, herd health, herd management and improving milk quality.
His goal is to provide dairy producers with the latest and best management practices to help position their dairy for the future.