NEW LONDON, Mo.– Spring is here, but parts of Missouri still aren’t through with winter weather.
A University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist notes that snow makes it harder for animals to find available forage, and cold weather increases their nutrient needs.
“They are going to need to be able to consume higher-quality forage to make up for the less available forage they can find,” said Daniel Mallory.
“Having more forage available at the beginning is always an option if producers know a storm is coming,” Mallory said. “They can put out extra hay in case they aren’t able to get out the next day. Otherwise, it is going to be a time-consuming job clearing a path to deliver enough forage.”
Herds calving early in the spring also present challenges. Mallory recommends providing shelter for young calves.
“Small sheds are a good option and can be bedded with straw to keep them dry,” he said.
The same principles also apply to sheep, but Mallory says it is important to realize that sheep are much smaller than cattle, so it doesn’t take as much snow to adversely affect them.
If inclement weather is on the way, try to move animals closer, he said.
“Move them closer to the house, move them close to a barn,” he said. “That way, if you need to work them you don’t have to travel as far.”
Cattle getting out on roads during a storm can cause accidents. Providing easy access to feed will help keep cattle from pushing on fences in search of forage.
Mallory warns against using high-moisture feeds because of the possibility of feeding ice chunks. Processing high-moisture forage before feeding will help digestion and prevent unnecessary expenditure of energy by the animal to break up the frozen particles. Also, if you know colder weather is coming, feed higher-quality forage right before that so they will have more energy.
To combat drifting that can bury cattle, Mallory recommends creating windbreaks. Decide where drifts will be and keep livestock out of those areas.