Farm Store | articles | Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter

Temperature Risks to Beef Cattle Health

With winter weather fast approaching, it's time for beef farmers to develop and finalize their winter herd management plans. Cold temperatures bring added stress on cattle as they adjust to temperature fluctuations, wind, snow, rain and mud. Dealing with these stressors will cause cattle to use more energy, thus affecting their daily energy requirements and performance; Without a proper management plan, herd health can suffer and negatively impact your operation's profitability.

Assess Your Current Situation

Cattle on a field during winterIt's not too late to prepare your herd for winter. By evaluating your herd's body condition score (BCS), vaccination status and environment, you will be able to develop a plan unique to your herd's needs. Body condition is rated on a 9 point scale with 1 equaling emaciated and 9 equaling obese. Ideally, each member of your herd should have a BCS of 5 to 6, to ensure best health and fertility throughout winter.; Cattle that are in good condition with a fat layer are better able to withstand the cold than their thinner counterparts. The layer of fat gives the animal an additional layer of insulation to maintain body temperature.

Winter is a good time to ensure that you are up to date on your vaccination and deworming programs. According to Southern States Livestock Feed Sales Manager Mike Peacock, "A proper vaccination program covering virals, not just clostridials, will aid in preventing weather stress induced respiratory problems." The cooler months also provide an excellent opportunity to get a handle on any internal or external parasites that may be aggravating your herd.

One of the best ways to help your cows combat winter weather is by providing a windbreak. A windbreak can be made of permanent or portable fences, a shelterbelt of trees, or a three sided shed, however this must be cleaned out on a regular basis to avoid other potential problems. All of these solutions will enable the cattle to seek needed protection from the wind, especially during periods of bitter temperatures. If you had windbreaks established last winter do a visual inspection to make sure they are still standing after the severe summer storms we experienced this year.

Potential Health Risks

The stresses of temperature fluctuations can cause sickness and even death in beef cattle. Some common issues are respiratory diseases, hypothermia, frostbite, loss of body condition and hoof problems. Stress can cause the suppression of the animal's immunity thus allowing bacterial or viral diseases to overcome the respiratory system. Not only do respiratory infections require medication administration, but it will involve more time and effort as injections require individual animal handling. A sick beef cow in the winter equals a decrease in gain and lower profits come spring.

Hypothermia and frostbite are directly related to frigid temperatures. Hypothermia occurs when the animal's body temperature drops well below normal levels. For cattle moderate hypothermia can start when their temperature goes below 85° F. Once in a state of hypothermia, blood starts to divert from extremities to protect vital organs. Frostbite most often affects teats, ears and testicles. Providing bedding for your cattle to lie on can help prevent frostbite on udders and testicles which can impact the fertility of your herd.

As the cattle work to keep their body temperatures stable, they burn even more energy than is normally needed for maintenance. Therefore without additional energy added to their diet body condition will decline. It is especially important to maintain good body condition in spring calving cows, otherwise they will be at risk for calving problems, have lower milk production and inferior colostrum.

Cold weather can also cause an increase in hoof problems as cows are turned out on rough, frozen ground. Abrasions caused from the frozen ground can become breeding grounds for infection once the ground thaws and mud seeps into the affected areas.

Winter Nutritional Requirements

Proper feeding during cold weather is an important herd management consideration. Rations that were previously formulated for your herd can become "unbalanced" and not meet the nutrient needs of the cattle. Unbalanced rations can lead to poor growth performance and weight loss. In cold weather cattle use more energy to maintain body temperature, condition and rate of gain. Therefore, it's important to talk to your local Southern States Feed Sales and Technical Representative to evaluate how best to handle your herd's nutritional requirements this winter. You will want to pay special attention to the nutrition requirements of your brood cows in early lactation and those entering the final 60 days of gestation.

To ensure that your herd receives appropriate nutrition based on their need split them into two groups, thin cattle and those with a BCS score of 5+. By sorting you can add extra supplementation to the diets of thinner members of your herd. Additionally competition between cattle also leads to timid, smaller or younger cattle not receiving their fair share of feed.

During the winter months you should feed cattle in the late afternoon or early evening. The energy from the feed will increase heat production during the night as a result of the animals eating and ruminating. Therefore your cattle will be producing more body heat at night while temperatures are the lowest.

Provide ample amounts of water. If water is not available, cattle will reduce feed intake, thus negatively impacting their rate of gain and causing potential health risks. Ensure that the water sources remain unfrozen.

Ready for Winter?

Winter is coming whether we are ready or not. By taking the steps mentioned above your herd won't just survive the winter, but thrive. Remember we can't control the weather, but we can reduce the effects of cold on our herds.

Shop Heaters

Related Products

More Products Like This:
Grid View
List View
  • Southern States Traditions Beef Blend 50 lb

    SKU 57090111
    Southern States Traditions Beef Blend is a pelleted feed for beef cattle weighing over 500 pounds. This feed is formulated with a variety of ingredients making it a very economical feed. 13% crude protein and fortified with vitamins and minerals makes this a great feed to supplement on pasture during periods of low nutrition or limited supply of hay or pasture. Pelleting reduces sorting and sifting of ingredients for greater uniform intake and less waste. Feed Additive options available.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Southern States Traditions Hi-Mag Beef Mineral 50 lb

    SKU 57922001
    Southern States Traditions Hi-Mag Beef Mineral is a free-choice mineral for beef cattle on pasture. Formulated with supplemental levels of Vitamins A, D, E, selenium as well as 14% magnesium. This supplement is designed to meet the daily nutrition requirements for health and reproduction. It is best to provide Southern States Traditions Hi-Mag Beef Mineral to your cattle 2 to 4 weeks before grazing tetany prone pastures.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Southern States 16% PowerStroke w/(BVT) Medicated 50 lb

    SKU 57226211
    Southern States 16% PowerStroke with (BVT) Medicated gives growing beef cattle (350 lbs. and above) all they need for excellent and efficient daily growth with a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals and the additive Bovatec, for increased rate of weight gain. Introduce 16% PowerStroke with (BVT) Medicated slowly into a hay, pasture or silage diet, based on the feeding rate per head, per day. This pelleted creep feed can also augment the diets of growing beef or dairy replacement heifers, and its 16% crude protein supports special needs of your cattle. Your growing herd will get great support from Southern States PowerStroke feeds.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Southern States Traditions 24% Beef Tub 200 lb

    SKU 51350139
    Southern States Traditions 24% Beef Tub is formulated for beef cattle fed on a free-choice basis while grazing pastures with adequate forage, receiving silage, hay or green-chop. This block is fortified with major and trace minerals and vitamins and contains 24% protein to aid in the prevention of deficiencies. The weatherproof tub protects the supplement from weather and no additional feeder or protection is needed. Southern States Traditions 24% Beef Tub is best used in the Fall, Winter and Spring.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Southern States Traditions Weathershed 2:1 Beef Mineral 50 lb

    SKU 57924001
    Mineral supplementation is the key to profitability in cattle production. Southern States Traditions Weathershed 2:1 Beef Mineral complements grazing cattle's diet with macro and micro minerals they need for healthy, steady growth and weight gain, including selenium, calcium and phosphorous. As mineral supplement rates in livestock feed increase, sickness and disease rates may decrease, and your profits show the difference. Keep your herd as healthy as it can be with Southern States Traditions Weathershed 2:1 Beef Mineral.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Southern States Traditions Fly Stop Hi-Mag Mineral w/Altosid 50 lb

    SKU 57928801
    In cattle production, mineral supplementation is the key to even weight gain and healthier animals in all growing stages. Southern States Traditions Fly Stop Hi-Mag Beef Mineral w/Altosid is the ideal mineral supplement for your grazing livestock during early spring. In the spring, foraging beef cattle may not be getting the magnesium they need. Solve the problem with Southern States Traditions Fly Stop Hi-Mag Beef Mineral w/Altosid, which also controls the horn fly population.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Southern States Cattleman's Beef Mineral 50 lb

    SKU 57926001
    Southern States Cattleman's Beef Mineral is a base mineral that meets NRC requirements for grazing cattle. Excellent choice for mixing with grains to balance silage/grain feeding programs or fed as a free choice mineral.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Southern States Traditions Weathershed Mag-O-Min 50 lb

    SKU 57921001
    During the spring and fall seasons, your livestock may not be getting the magnesium they need from your pastures. Make pasture management an easier proposition with Southern States Traditions Weathershed Mag-O-Min, a magnesium-rich mineral supplement specifically designed for beef cattle. This supplement not only provides every mineral your cattle need for healthy growth, it's the only form of salt they'll require, and Weathershed protection means you'll contend with fewer moisture issues. Southern States Traditions Weathershed Mag-O-Min makes healthier herds. Feed Additive options available.
    to see pricing & availability

Find Your Nearest Southern States Location

Sales & Offers