Wintering cattle in cold climates

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angus9259

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My old age is starting to make me concerned about the cattle. I've been doing this 30 years and my cattle never get a barn. I'm in Michigan so the weather gets cold (15 today but often below zero). I have never bedded them either. They just stand there like deer. I do have some tree wind breaks and the pasture is rolling so there are hills. I worry about barns for cleanliness, health and safety.

Who else leaves their cattle out in the weather all winter? I'm sure some of you are even colder than I am this morning. The 15 degrees doesn't seem to bother them at all. It's the wind and snow/rain. But they get it all at my place. Honestly, been this way for 30 years and they've come through each winter fine and nursing calves (I fall calve). It seems maybe I'm just getting soft because they don't seem to be.
 

Rydero

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My old age is starting to make me concerned about the cattle. I've been doing this 30 years and my cattle never get a barn. I'm in Michigan so the weather gets cold (15 today but often below zero). I have never bedded them either. They just stand there like deer. I do have some tree wind breaks and the pasture is rolling so there are hills. I worry about barns for cleanliness, health and safety.

Who else leaves their cattle out in the weather all winter? I'm sure some of you are even colder than I am this morning. The 15 degrees doesn't seem to bother them at all. It's the wind and snow/rain. But they get it all at my place. Honestly, been this way for 30 years and they've come through each winter fine and nursing calves (I fall calve). It seems maybe I'm just getting soft because they don't seem to be.
-30 this morning here again. Cows don't need a barn. Shelter from the wind is a big thing. Around here you can buy 30' freestanding windbreak panels that you can move around with a tractor and probably sell for what you buy them for when you retire. They would definitely appreciate bedding, mine certainly utilize any bedding that's available if it's out of the wind. I just wouldn't fall calve here (it's colder than where you are) - hard on cow's bags, small calves would struggle more with the cold and feeding only hay it'd be harder to supply the needs of a lactating cow in the cold.
 

Silver

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I think cows do better in the cold than extreme heat. Like Rydero said, shelter from wind is a big thing.
We tend to overfeed when it's cold out so they have enough to lay on. Our cows never even had access to water during the winter until the last few years.
 

RDFF

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God didn't build barns, he built cattle that were meant to be out in the weather. One really big dairy operator (several thousand cows) who went broke with the whole freestall setup told me, as we were standing next to the barn with the tin flapping in the wind (bank took it, but not the cows!), "No barn was EVER built for cattle. They were all built for PEOPLE, to take care of cattle in."

The cattle are better off outside, than in the barn. But nobody wants to take care of them out in the weather, so they build a barn to make it "easier" to care for them. Years ago, with running water but before electricity, you "NEEDED" a "barn" to keep in the body heat of the cattle so that the water tank wouldn't freeze. (really?... see Silver's post above)... why... because it was "easier" than chopping open water all winter. THAT is what we've all "evolved from" as cattlemen. You have to go back further in history, BEFORE running water... then the animals, unless they were dairy, were kept outside. Dairy though too... built their barns to make it "easier" and "more comfortable, more time efficient, for the man" to milk the cows.... it's hard to milk very many when they're running around in a pasture.

God gave cows legs, let them use them! He also gave them a natural 24/7 milking machine... it's called a calf. He also gave them shelter... it's called a tree. A woodlot is the best "barn" you could ever have. Work WITH the natural system, instead of against it!
 
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angus9259

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-30 this morning here again. Cows don't need a barn. Shelter from the wind is a big thing. Around here you can buy 30' freestanding windbreak panels that you can move around with a tractor and probably sell for what you buy them for when you retire. They would definitely appreciate bedding, mine certainly utilize any bedding that's available if it's out of the wind. I just wouldn't fall calve here (it's colder than where you are) - hard on cow's bags, small calves would struggle more with the cold and feeding only hay it'd be harder to supply the needs of a lactating cow in the cold.
Appreciate it. To your point, to fall calve I feed good soft hay and am prepared to creep feed if the calves start slowing down. I can also wean the calves early (at 3-4 months) if it gets really crazy and put the calves on feed. This winter has been so mild everyone is staying really chunky just on second cut mixed hay.
 
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angus9259

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God didn't build barns, he built cattle that were meant to be out in the weather. One really big dairy operator (several thousand cows) who went broke with the whole freestall setup told me, as we were standing next to the barn with the tin flapping in the wind (bank took it, but not the cows!), "No barn was EVER built for cattle. They were all built for PEOPLE, to take care of cattle in."

The cattle are better off outside, than in the barn. But nobody wants to take care of them out in the weather, so they build a barn to make it "easier" to care for them. Years ago, with running water but before electricity, you "NEEDED" a "barn" to keep in the body heat of the cattle so that the water tank wouldn't freeze. (really?... see Silver's post above)... why... because it was "easier" than chopping open water all winter. THAT is what we've all "evolved from" as cattlemen. You have to go back further in history, BEFORE running water... then the animals, unless they were dairy, were kept outside. Dairy though too... built their barns to make it "easier" and "more comfortable, more time efficient, for the man" to milk the cows.... it's hard to milk very many when they're running around in a pasture.

God gave cows legs, let them use them! He also gave them a natural 24/7 milking machine... it's called a calf. He also gave them shelter... it's called a tree. A woodlot is the best "barn" you could ever have. Work WITH the natural system, instead of against it!
Thanks!
 

Dave

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The winter winter storm warning issued for today doesn't seem to bother my cows too much.
 

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SBMF 2015

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Notice my picture to the left. It was -30 that morning with 30 mph winds. (Set a new record low) The cows are coming to get water. They have hills and trees for a wind break.
 

1982vett

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God didn't build barns, he built cattle that were meant to be out in the weather. One really big dairy operator (several thousand cows) who went broke with the whole freestall setup told me, as we were standing next to the barn with the tin flapping in the wind (bank took it, but not the cows!), "No barn was EVER built for cattle. They were all built for PEOPLE, to take care of cattle in."

The cattle are better off outside, than in the barn. But nobody wants to take care of them out in the weather, so they build a barn to make it "easier" to care for them. Years ago, with running water but before electricity, you "NEEDED" a "barn" to keep in the body heat of the cattle so that the water tank wouldn't freeze. (really?... see Silver's post above)... why... because it was "easier" than chopping open water all winter. THAT is what we've all "evolved from" as cattlemen. You have to go back further in history, BEFORE running water... then the animals, unless they were dairy, were kept outside. Dairy though too... built their barns to make it "easier" and "more comfortable, more time efficient, for the man" to milk the cows.... it's hard to milk very many when they're running around in a pasture.

God gave cows legs, let them use them! He also gave them a natural 24/7 milking machine... it's called a calf. He also gave them shelter... it's called a tree. A woodlot is the best "barn" you could ever have. Work WITH the natural system, instead of against it!
I’ll agree that God made the cattle....but I’m pretty sure it was man that moved a good many of them to where they are today.
 

sim.-ang.king

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Frozen ground, and snow doesn't bother me a bit. Actually pray for it.

You want real nasty winter weather? Come on down here. 36 on Monday with a record setting rain for January, winding blowing all day Tuesday, snowed today with muddy soup underneath, and going to get down in the teens tonight, with it getting back in the 40's by Friday. That's the kind of weather that really puts the hurt on cows.
 

Muletrack

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My old age is starting to make me concerned about the cattle. I've been doing this 30 years and my cattle never get a barn. I'm in Michigan so the weather gets cold (15 today but often below zero). I have never bedded them either. They just stand there like deer. I do have some tree wind breaks and the pasture is rolling so there are hills. I worry about barns for cleanliness, health and safety.

Who else leaves their cattle out in the weather all winter? I'm sure some of you are even colder than I am this morning. The 15 degrees doesn't seem to bother them at all. It's the wind and snow/rain. But they get it all at my place. Honestly, been this way for 30 years and they've come through each winter fine and nursing calves (I fall calve). It seems maybe I'm just getting soft because they don't seem to be.
As long as they are dry, they can stand a lot of cold. I'm a fall calver (August and September) in North Dakota and use only windbreaks and the shelterbelt. The cold is never a concern. They all have hides, and know how to stick together. Bedding is important, though. They have leftover hay for that. When it's really cold, we feed a little more hay. No problems with bags or cold calves. We used to calve in January and February -- but a 4- or 5-month old calve can take the winter a lot better than a 4- or 5-day old calf!
 

RDFF

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I think cows do better in the cold than extreme heat. Like Rydero said, shelter from wind is a big thing.
We tend to overfeed when it's cold out so they have enough to lay on. Our cows never even had access to water during the winter until the last few years.
Silver, I see you're in BC..... how many head are you running? Doesn't really matter, a cow's a cow, and if she "needs" water, she needs water. I tend to think that they can do just fine as long as they're grazing through snow. Feeding hay, they seem to "demand" more water, if it's available at least. You feeding hay, or winter stockpiled feed, or both?
 

Silver

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Silver, I see you're in BC..... how many head are you running? Doesn't really matter, a cow's a cow, and if she "needs" water, she needs water. I tend to think that they can do just fine as long as they're grazing through snow. Feeding hay, they seem to "demand" more water, if it's available at least. You feeding hay, or winter stockpiled feed, or both?
Feeding straight hay. There is no such thing as stockpiled feed up here through the dead of winter.
 

RDFF

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Silver, your feeding straight hay.... and always have been in winter apparently. Your cows "never even had access to water until the last few years".......... that's kinda why I asked how many you're running, and then in addition to that one, how large an area are they running on in winter? Not that those things really matter that much. A cow is a cow. What brought you to give them access to water now? How many years did you run them without giving them access to water... and then they just had snow all winter I assume....?

I'm asking for my cousin's son who has had his cows just eating snow for water for the last month, with them grazing winter stockpile through the snow. They've been doing really good, and they look to be in good condition, but that clipper from up your way just swung down through here today... -15 tonight with 40 mph winds (they have woods to get into)... he's a little concerned now that he just started feeding them dry baled hay instead of the stockpile. Thinks maybe they'll be needing water... but the snow's so deep now that you can't get out there with anything but a pretty good FWA tractor, so it's pretty difficult for him to get it to them....
 

Silver

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Our cows ran without winter water from 1950 to 2016 or so. I don't like to talk numbers, but we run a few. They generally have access to a lot of acres, including bush. Some years we were happy to have the bush as generally there will be snow there when it can be tough going out in the open. I decided to put them on water because winters seemed to be getting less dependable for early meaningful snowfall. You can get caught around here between freeze-up and meaningful snowfall, and opening water in the creeks can end up in a wreck. Also, we used to separate our first and second calvers to try to keep the younger ones on water (chopping ice on ponds), but I wanted to feed them all together so thought having water for everyone might be a good idea. If nothing else it takes the stress out of watching the weather.
But if you are going to graze snow you do need a big enough area that they can do it where it's not packed down. That can take some space for sure.
 
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