Keeping cattle healthy in the U.P. winter

Keeping cattle healthy in the U.P. winter

CHATHAM — The Upper Peninsula’s often cold weather has an obvious effect on the day–to–day lives of residents. Residents of the animal variety are also affected by the winter chill.

Feeding is key to maintaining the health of livestock such as cattle. As it gets colder, cattle require more energy to keep their bodies warm. Farmers need make sure their cattle have enough body fat stored up going into winter, as well as enough feed to keep up with the increased energy demands.

“We get about 150 to 180 grazing days. That’s about half of the year, so we have to plan our feed supply so that we have enough food for them to last basically six months, is what we plan for,” said Paul Naasz, farm manager at Michigan State University’s Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center in Chatham. “So just planning, prior planning, making sure you have feed on hand or feed available so that they can get fed, that’s the most critical part: making sure they have enough energy to maintain their body temperature.”

Keeping cattle dry helps to prevent frostbite, which is mostly seen in younger animals.

“When we talk about frostbite and frost damage, generally that occurs on younger calves, basically baby calves,” added Naasz. “When baby calves are born, they’re wet, and if it gets really cold and they have wet ears and a wet hair coat, that’s when they can get the frost damage, and they’ll lose their ears in fact. So, it’s keeping them dry. Once they’re dry, they do pretty good.”

Cattle actually face more dangers as the temperatures start to rise in spring. Hoof problems stemming from mud and respiratory problems start to occur as humidity increases. Moving herds regularly and vaccinating them can fend off these issues.