Feeding Cows in Cold Weather

Feeding Cows in Cold Weather

In a recent ‘Ag Coffee Shop, a monthly webinar put on by the Southeast District Extension Specialists, Earl Ward discussed adjusting feeding for cold weather. Where, considering a 1200 pound lactating cow, has an estimated Lower Critical Temperature(LCT) of 59 degrees F, in a summer or wet hair coat, and a dry winter coat allows for a LCT of 32 degrees F. Obviously, shelter provided, or muddy wet conditions are factors of consideration, but generally speaking, how do the temperature drops and lower wind chills affect a cows need for supplementation? Following weather forecasts and making a few calculated feed adjustments can allow us to ramp those cow’s energy needs up before the cold stress hits them.

A basic rule of thumb, the cow’s energy requirement will increase 1% for every 1 degree F. temperature drop below her LCT. So, for example, the weatherman says that the wind chill is dropping to 15 degree F, and we know our 1200# lactating cow has a Total Digestible Nutrient(TDN) need of 17.6 pounds/day. Her LCT is 32 degrees F. So 32 degree minus 15 degree(predicted wind chill) gives us a 17 degree drop, which equates to 17% increase in energy requirement. So a 17% increase in energy need will equate to about 20.5 pounds of TDN needed during the stressful weather.








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