October is a busy month in Iowa with all hands and minds fully occupied with the harvest and proper storage of next year’s feed supply. Preparing cattle and facilities for the sometimes harsh environmental conditions that can occur is usually considered something for later. However, now is the ideal time to take several management measures to make life easier for your cattle – and you – this winter. The key to cattle comfort in the winter is to establish traffic patterns so cattle can easily walk from bedding to feed to water, provide a comfortable area for them to lie down and rest, and provide protection from the harsh winter winds. Here are a few ideas to consider to prepare your pens for the winter season:

- Now is the perfect time to rebuild and reshape mounds in dirt lots, scrape pens, and ensure that moisture cannot accumulate in pens. Later, when ice and snow accumulate, these tasks become much more difficult.

- Evaluate each pen to ensure that high and dry traffic patterns exist between feed, water, and resting areas within each pen. Think about problem spots in pens from last year and consider adding soil to those areas or even pouring concrete.

- Make any necessary maintenance to buildings, wind breaks, waterers ,etc.

- Make sure snow removal equipment is in good working order. Timely snow removal this winter will mean less moisture and mud in the spring.

- In addition to harvest and storage of feed, make sure that enough bedding is secured so cattle can have a comfortable place to rest.

- As your cattle arrive, try to give them a stress-free environment as much as possible. This includes not only proper facility and housing maintenance, but an evaluation of handling facilities and proper training of employees on low-stress cattle handling.

- Consult with your veterinarian and re-evaluate your protocols for arrival processing and treatments.

- Consult your nutritionist to see about changes to reduce feed costs and improve cattle performance.

Source: Dan Loy, Beef Specialist, Iowa State University Extension