Cattle in winter

These cattle are kept warm in the freezing temperatures and snow with straw, along with being behind a hill, which protects them from wind.

As cattle producers continue to face record low temperatures and snowfall, many are contemplating how much can be done to mitigate the adverse weather conditions.

In an Extension news release, Taylor Grussing, South Dakota State University cow/calf field specialist, offered the following recommendations for calving season preparation in the midst of severe weather conditions.


Supply ample bedding. Bedding the ground will provide warmth from the frozen ground surface and also encourages cows to remain in the protected area. Young calves are reluctant to leave mom’s side, so this will give them something warm to lay on also.


Barns can provide protection from the wind, especially for soon-to-calve or newly calved cows. If cattle will be closed into barns for a short period of time, 50 square feet is the minimum amount of space that should be allocated. However, for longer periods, 100 square feet per cow or pair is recommended.

Make sure barns are ventilated to reduce condensation which could lead to wet hides and cause health problems when cattle are turned back out into the cold weather.


Feed them as much forage as they’ll eat. When cold weather hits, voluntary feed intake goes up, and they will eat more to keep warm. If the forecasted weather will last more than 24 hours, start increasing forage availability 24 hours early and continue until the frigid temps have passed.


Check water sources. If tank heaters are on, make sure they are functioning properly and propane levels are full before the wind hits. Cattle will likely not consume as much water as normal, but having some available during the cold spell will help with feed intake.


Have generators and heaters on hand just in case a tractor doesn’t start or the power goes out. Strategically placing hay close to cattle can help decrease time spent delivering feed to cows during the cold weather. Or in case something breaks and can’t be fixed right away, simply moving a temporary fence to feed cows can be valuable.