cold cows

Keeping Your Cattle Warm in the Winter

With winter comes freezing temperatures, sleet, snow, and ice, and all of these wintertime realities make life extremely difficult for cattle. Humans can simply slip on a pair of gloves, a warm coat, and a hat, but what can ranchers do to keep livestock warm and healthy in the winter?


It might seem like cattle could simply lick snow from the ground in order to receive their daily water requirement—especially if a lot of it has fallen—but drinking only snow is extremely unhealthy for cattle. Snow is typically unsanitary and unreliable; sheep alone need around three gallons of water per day, and cattle require anywhere from 3 to 30 gallons per day. These numbers can vary greatly, however, depending on the outside temperature and whether or not the animal is pregnant. Because they require so much water, cattle can spend their entire day licking snow off the ground and still not meet their daily water requirements. Not only that, but drinking only snow will drastically lower their body temperature and increase their energy needs, meaning they will need more food to stay healthy. Always provide cattle with ample unfrozen water each and every day.


Apart from feeding cattle ample food from hay bales and fodder in the winter, it is recommended that ranchers make sure that there is enough head space or bunk room so all cattle have room to eat. It”s recommended that ranchers separate animals into different feeding groups based on their individual nutritional requirements. For example, pregnant cows should be kept separate from the group to ensure that they”re getting enough of their daily ration from the hay bales.

Keeping mineralized salt blocks available and out of the elements will help supplement the hay bales and other food set out for livestock. Cattle can tolerate cold temperatures if there is enough food for them and if the temperature isn”t below freezing.

Supplementary Materials

The Lowest Critical Temperature (LCT) for animals varies according to species, but 32 degrees Fahrenheit is approximately the lowest temperature dry cattle can tolerate if there is little to no wind present. If the temperature dips below that or if cattle is wet, cattle and other livestock will require additional food and water to meet the minimum energy demands to support normal body temperature. Blankets can be used to retain or raise body temperature, but the blanket shouldn”t become wet.

Shelter and Bedding

In the event of a freeze (especially when coupled with wind chill), shelter should be considered. Sheds with at least three sides, large mounds and hills, large fencing with at least three sides, or a close by thicket of trees can all protect cattle from harsh wind and harsh temperatures. There should be enough space for cattle to move to prevent overcrowding and trampling. Bedding will help keep cattle warm and insulated, but it should be kept as clean and dry as possible.

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For over 17 years, The Hay Manager has been  innovating and improving hay management tools to the farming industry. Besides manufacturing round bale feeders.