How to Take Care of Dairy Cow During Winter

Winter is coming. It’s time to manage your cattle farm for the upcoming season. Here we are going to talk about how to take care of dairy cow during winter. We would manage the farm so we can take care of the dairy cow properly during winter.

Dairy calf and heifer are very important for the farmer to take care. As they will grow up and become the source of dairy production. We should take care of their health, keeping their growth under observation as you want them to become a healthy cow who will become your source of income. Guides to make your cow drinking enough water would be a good link to know how to keep your cow hydrated.

Dairy heifers (cows who haven’t given birth to a calf yet) will take such a great sum to take care of. They would take around 30% of the feeding cost on the farm. And they will be in their vulnerable period during preweaning period. That’s why they need extra care during this period, not only for their health maintenance, but also for their feeding cost.

During winter, the energy cost will be sky rocketed as the cows will also need warmth in their facilities. Because winter can cause cold stress to cows, especially to calves, and it can increase the risk of having diseases and even can cause death.

To take care of dairy calves during the winter, there are some feeding management you can apply to your farm.

  • If you are having a milk replacer for your calves, make sure that it contains 20% fat as the calves need for their diet.
  • From milk replacer, solid content should be 12.5% to 16%
  • Increase feeding frequency from two times to three times a day with same amount per feeding the same.
  • More milk feeding, from 2 times to 3 times a day

Though you are giving milk replaces to the calves, you should also give high quality calf starter free choice and a lot of water. Though during winter some cows don’t drink a lot of water due to freezing. But, you should keep in mind that keeping your cows hydrated will minimize the risk of hypothermia.

For cattle owners, let me recommend 10 Effective Ways To Start A Small Cattle Farm as your reference in managing you small cattle farm. Now let’s take a look what steps should be taken to be ready for the summer.

1. Winter Housing

Though your cows can adapt very well to living on pastures, harsh weather could strain any dairy cows. Before it happens to your cows, it’s better to analyze your pasture before winter comes and build any protections needed for your farm. First thing to analyze is the wind. You should see from which direction the storm and the wind come. How the winter usually fall as? Snow, freezing rain or sleet? If you have the answer, you would have proper plan to anticipate.

Let’s say the winter in your area is not too bad, but still have great wind chill, you can keep your cows in building like valley to keep them from strong winds. Build in circle around their house with natural wind barriers, like wind fences. This fences can block around 80% of the winds. Not only this windbreak can slow down the wind, they are also sturdy during storm.  However, if you think the windbreaks cost quite a lot for you, you could consider to stack bales of straw, snow piles, or even parked cars and tractors around the house to serve as windbreakers during the all but severe winds.

Freezing rain is the most dangerous situation during winter. If it happens frequently, you should consider construction a shed, whether it’s a three sided one or a complete one. And do not forget to keep the shed ventilated.

Overall, snow is not a bad one as long as cows can move comfortably and you are still able to feed and milk them.

2. Bedding

Cleanliness is not among qualities that cows have. They don’t have a sense to stay out of their own waste. They would even lie on it during cold weather to keep themselves warm. Though eventually the manure will eventually freeze and leave the cow filthy. This is quite annoying that’s why you need to prepare a bedding to keep your cow dry and clean. For non-lactating cows, no bedding means okay for them. However, for lactating cows, a bedding is a must otherwise they can suffer from frostbitten teats. For calves and younger cows, they even need thicker bedding as they are easily become chilled and suffer winter diseases. It’s no need to make expensive bedding, woodchips, hay and straws are enough for them to lie down comfortably.

3. Water source

Source is very important to your cows, especially the ones that is lactating. They need constant access to clean water. Though their need of water will decrease during winter, you can’t underestimate the effort to keep giving them clean and fresh water. The challenge during winter is how to keep your water thawed.  Some just chip the ice away, some use heated, insulated waterers or bubblers. However, if you live in an area with constant snow cover, the cows might become accustomed with taking snow as the water source. Whatever way is good as long as the water is clean. But, if your cow drink snow, it will likely that the milk production will decrease as cold water will reduce their water intake.

4. Udder care

Udder needs to be taken care. As during winter you are fighting against chapped skin and cracked. You should keep the udder dry. If there is a leak between milkings, you must milk more frequent. If you can’t avoid chapped on the udder, you should treat the cows with the balms which is very effective in healing and moisturize the skin. If you like to make your own herbal balms to treat udders, there are some recipes you can make.

Main ingredients are beeswax, olive oil and essential oils. For essential oils, you can use either lavender oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil or calendula.

5. Foot care

Cows in pasture normally have fewer foot problems than the ones kept in concrete house. Though it is like that, they are still susceptible to cracked and bruised feet. It is harder to observe foot ailments during winter season. As cows will less move during winter, hence it is hardly to observe any limping in your cows. Therefore, checking your cow’s feet should become your routine during winter to prevent any disease.

6. Winter diseases

Common diseases which happen in the winter are:

  • Viral and bacterial pneumonia
  • Winter dysentery
  • Bacterial abortions

Hence, you should take precautions and prepare well to take care of your cows.

Now, let’s take a look how to take care of other animal as your pet, you can click on Important Tips to Take Care of A Puppy Without Its Mother. Or if you like to start a poultry, you may find How to Take Care of Chicken For Beginners useful.