South Dakota Cattlemen Prepare for Bracing Winter

US - Dairy producers should be prepared for cold weather conditions that can affect young stock and lactating cows, a South Dakota State University specialist said.
calendar icon 16 December 2008
clock icon 2 minute read
University of South Dakota

SDSU Extension Dairy Specialist Alvaro Garcia said producers should protect young calves from inclement weather and air drafts and should provide plenty of dry, clean bedding.

"If using milk replacer, choose those that contain 20 percent fat, as they provide additional energy. Although usual recommendations are to feed milk at 10 percent of body weight, during extremely cold weather it will be necessary to increase this amount," Garcia said.

Encourage starter intake by making sure there is drinking water available at all times. Make sure the water does not freeze in the pails. Offering lukewarm water two to three times a day encourages feed consumption and counteracts the effects of cold stress, Garcia said. Always maintain calves' coats as clean and dry as possible.

Lactating cows that are adequately fed should withstand cold conditions provided they are kept dry and not exposed directly to the wind. Keep the housing area dry and free of manure and provide ample supply of dry clean bedding daily.

Garcia noted that teat skin chapping (frostbite) can become a problem in lactating cows during cold, windy weather. Chapping makes the teat more susceptible to bacterial infections, particularly Staphylococcus.

If injury has already occurred, skin chapping and loss of at least the teat end is likely. When the teat end is damaged, the sphincter that closes the teat canal is also non-functional, predisposing the quarter to bacterial invasion.

"Mastitis is a possible outcome, and the cows affected will have to be monitored closely," Garcia said. Recent research indicates teat dipping should be continued during cold windy days. Pre- and post-milking teat dips need to include skin conditioners (example: glycerin, lanolin). Producers should dry teats and udders effectively. Cows should not be turned outside to cold windy conditions until the teat dip has dried for one minute.

Garcia pointed out there are cold weather guidelines from the National Mastitis Council:

  • In very cold weather it may be advisable to dip just the teat end.
  • When teats are dipped, dip only the end and blot off any excess with a single service paper towel.
  • Teats should be dry before turning cows out of the barn.
  • Warming the teat dip reduces drying time.
  • Windbreaks in outside holding areas provide some protection.
  • Fresh cows with swollen udders are more susceptible to chapping.
"Always remember that prevention is the key," Garcia said. "Maintain the cows, and particularly keep the udders clean, dry and out of the wind. Use plenty of clean, dry bedding and keep the animals away from drafts as much as possible."

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