Wet Conditions Increase Cow Feed Needs

Mud and cold, wet conditions are much more difficult to manage than just the bitterly cold.
( Photo: Kansas State University Research and Extension )

Challenges of winter weather is not just for the northern tier of the country, says Amy Radunz, University of Wisconsin beef Extension specialist. “Cattle can often handle frigid temperatures, as long as they remain dry.”

But Mother Nature doesn't always play fair. When winter temperatures fluctuate greatly, snow and ice melt to create wet and muddy conditions that make it harder for cattle to stay warm.

That's why mud and cold wet conditions are much more difficult to manage than just the bitterly cold, Radunz says.

For every 2°F the temperature drops, cows need an additional 1.1 lb. of total digestible nutrients (TDN) to meet their daily requirements below a cow’s critical temperature (see interactive chart below.)

Move your mouse over each of the dots on the thermostat to see the critical temperature and environmental condition producers should be mindful of each winter. When these conditions are present, cattle will need additional nutrients to sustain body condition. Source:Kansas State University, Beef Cow Nutrition Guide; Produced by Sara Brown, Drovers.com.

For example, if the high temperature falls below 10°F for one week, cows will require 4.5 lb. of TDN supplementation per day.

With poor to medium quality forage cows many not be able to consume enough forage to meet energy needs—leading to a lack or regression of body condition.

Don’t get develop tunnel vision, she encourages producers. “I get it, you’re focused on the day-to-day,” she says. “But once a month, walk through your cows and check how many BCS 4s, 5s and 6s you have.”

Find more resources for body condition scoring and winter feeding here.