Growing calves in a dry lot during the winter months has several advantages but also some disadvantages. Because harvested forages are inexpensive this year a dry lot may be one of the lowest cost methods of wintering calves. One disadvantage to consider is the problems that rain and snow can cause when backgrounding in a dry lot.

"Feeding pens need to be kept clean and dry for cattle gains to be satisfactory," says Frank Brazle, extension livestock specialist from the southeast region of Kansas. "When backgrounding pens become muddy, they become expensive in terms of cost of gain of the cattle."

Mud 4 to 8 inches deep in the pen will decrease cattle feed intake by 8 percent to 15 percent. It also slows daily gain by about 14 percent and increases feed requirements per pound of gain by 13 percent. Severe conditions, with mud 8 to 12 inches deep, may reduce feed intake by up to 30 percent and decrease gain by 25 percent or more. In some situations cattle gains have been cut in half by muddy conditions. To minimize mud and the losses that mud causes lots should be well drained and mounded.

Cold weather also increases the energy requirements by as much as 10 percent to 15 percent. Feeders can minimize these extra maintenance requirements by providing wind protection such as windbreaks.