Management of the cattle herd during winter

We cannot control the weather, but we can do our best to reduce the effects of cold on cattle. This will help reduce costs and improve production efficiency.



When temperatures start to fall in winter, farmers need to think about the effects the weather has on the productivity and efficiency of cattle.



Like all mammals, cattle must maintain a constant body temperature. The normal rectal temperature for a cow is about 38 ° C (101 ° F). The Angus breed, unlike other breeds, is a breed that tolerates cold and low temperatures, and adapts very well to temperature differences and does not need close stables.



In times of extreme cold, cattle will look for a shelter against the wind or a bed of dry straw where they will gather in the herd. They will be able to cope with these conditions in the long run due to the growing of a thick coat of hair for the winter.



Factors that influence an animal’s ability to withstand cold weather:

  • Acclimatisation: Cattle adapt or acclimate in a colder weather by their increasingly thicker and longer fur. This provides additional insulation against cold weather. The fur must be clean and dry to ensure maximum protection for the cow. Dirt or moisture on the heating layer drastically reduces its insulation value.
  • Fat layer: Cattle in good condition with an optimal fat layer are better able to withstand low temperatures. The fat layer acts as another insulating layer between their body and the environment.
  • Metabolic rate: cows will increase their metabolic rate to increase heat production and help maintain body temperature.



Key management factors to limit the effects of stress at low temperatures:

  • Monitor the weather. Monitor the temperature and increase the feed rate for all cattle herds if the temperature reaches the lower critical level.
  • Protect cattle against the wind. The wind significantly reduces the actual temperature, increasing stress on the animals.
  • Dry bed litter. Providing a bed of dry straw makes a significant difference in the ability of cattle to withstand cold stress. Keep cattle clean and dry. Wet floors have very small isolated properties and make cows more sensitive to cold stress. Sludge covers also reduce the insulating properties of the hair.
  • Provide water. Make sure cows have enough water available at all times. Limiting water will limit intake of feed and will make cows meet energy requirements.


Frozen gutters and cold water seriously hamper the water intake.