Caring For Cattle In Winter

T.J. Giles provides a guideline to caring for cattle in winter, including range cattle feed, caring for cows and calves, and providing water and winter shelter.

| September/October 1975


Mature cattle can be wintered on good wheat or barley straw.A low-lying, brushy area provides some shelter for the herd.


T.J. Gilles is the owner of Spring Creek Ranch in Montana . . . where, as he says, "winter grass is as nutritionless as diet cola and/or covered with snow". The following advice — although gathered over 20 years of wintering cattle in that harsh climate and specifically applicable to "Big Sky" country — should help other northern stock raisers bring their herds through the coming cold weather in good condition.  

Here, in the northern U.S., winter isn't a comfortable time for range cattle . . . which are protected from the elements only by hide and fur. Still, a good wintering program can make the cold season bearable for your stock and-in any event-is necessary to keep the herd healthy and productive.

Caring For Cattle in Winter

Cattle Feed Supply

The first step in any wintering program is the acquisition of feed. You should figure at least a ton of roughage (hay, straw, or silage) per bovine, regardless of age. . . because younger cattle-which are attempting to grow, not merely to maintain themselves-may eat more in proportion to their size than full-grown cows.

Your choice of feed depends partly on circumstances. It's impossible — for instance — to put up your own corn silage without a lot of expensive, specialized equipment . . . and the silage you buy is usually laced with chemicals: pesticides, herbicides, and preservatives. You may-however-be able to raise, mow, and bale your own hay . . . or hire the work done.

If not, July and August — when the supply of this feed is most ample and varied and the prices lowest — are the best months to boy.

I prefer grass hay to alfalfa . . . because there's no risk of bloat, and because freshly weaned calves take more readily to a dried form of the same food they've been nibbling all summer.

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