With the somewhat extreme weather that we have been experiencing this fall and winter, a lot of people ask how to the cows deal with this weather?  While it’s easy to bring the farm dog in to sleep on the porch in the winter, for us it’s difficult and would be quite cost prohibitive to build an indoor area large enough for the cattle to go.

First, I always remind people that cattle have been living outside for thousands of years and have natural defences that helps them survive in the winter.  All summer long the cattle graze on lush, green pastures; gaining weight and putting on a nice layer of fat to help keep them warm throughout the winter.  As the days and nights cool off in the fall, the cattle also begin to develop their winter coat.  Thick, dense hair protects them from the winter elements.

Cow with her winter coat
Cow with her slick summer coat for comparison

Once they are off summer pastures, they are kept on a winter pasture here on our yard.  We have an open front barn they can go in to get out of the wind, as well as several areas of wind breaks set up.  The wind breaks serve as shelter areas for the cattle to go behind and get out of the wind.  To encourage them to “hang out” there, we also place their straw bed-pack on the leeward side (the side where there is no wind).  When it is very cold out, the cattle will naturally huddle together and they stay warm by doing so.

The bed pack with windbreaks

During the cold, the cattle require more feed to eat and we meet their needs by feeding high quality hay to them.  Our hay is sent to a lab and the nutritional content is evaluated.  From this data we can select the right feed for their dietary requirements.  We also will feed the hay near their bed pack so they don’t have far to travel and can conserve energy and focus on staying warm.

Tractor and bale grinder
Hay Yard

Cattle also require fresh water all the time.  The cattle have waters that are heated so they don’t freeze.  In the winter this can cause some issues as pipes freeze, elements go out of watering devices, etc.  We are always checking the waters making sure that the animals have fresh water at all times.

Steaming waters mean they are working

The cattle are our lively hood, and during the winter we spend lots of time checking on the cattle and caring for them.  By making sure they are warm and happy when the weather is inclement keeps them heathy and ensures our cattle herd is around for years to come!

A happy cow = a happy cowgirl!