Meeting your cattle’s nutritional needs during the colder months

As the temperature drops, ranchers are making a major shift in how they take care of their cattle. Russel Nemetz, with the Western Ag Network, shares what producers in the northern plains need to pay close attention to.

The mild fall weather we have been enjoying has been replaced with cold temperatures and snow for much of our region, and MSU Extension beef cattle specialist Megan Van Emon reminds ranchers to make sure they are meeting their livestock’s nutritional needs during weather events like this.

“The big one we want to keep in mind is that rule of thumb that for every degree below 32 degrees, we increase our requirements by one percent. The rule of thumb is energy requirements, but the big thing I want to keep in mind for that is-- that’s all requirements,” Van Emon states. “Everything goes up when the weather turns to a lovely winter... but with this change and whether it’s the mother cows and those freshly weaned calves we really want to keep an eye on because they’re coming off the high stress of weaning.”

She says that quality of hay is also a big factor in keeping cattle healthy, especially those mother cows.

“Right now, we’re still in mid-gestation and that fetus really isn’t putting a lot of extra demand on that cow, yet. We’re kind of getting into that time frame, so we can still feed a little bit of that lesser quality hay, but I would definitely supplement it with a hay in that 10-11 percent protein,” she explains. “Never underestimate range cubes, lick tubs, however you can help them get those protein requirements. That’s our big concern this time of year and in the winter those protein requirements because our pastures are probably in that 4-5 percent protein range.”

Fresh and clean water is also important, she says, in helping cattle with their feed intake but also keeping them warm during these cold and snowy conditions.

“Fresh clean water is extremely important to keep intake of feed up, and that’s why they need to do it to make sure they stay warm as our temperatures drop. That rumen is its heat source. So, making sure they consume those fresh quality water sources is really important during these types of weather conditions,” she adds.


Preparing livestock for winter