Many parts of the U.S have already had their fair share of cold weather this season. When the weather forecast calls for extremely low temperatures, what preparations are a must on your operation? Here’s a look at some of the most important “To Do” items before the winter chill sets in.


Even though cows will likely drink less during cold spells, sometimes the act of getting water to the cows can be the challenge. If there is a extreme drop in temperatures forecasted, it may be necessary to double-down on making sure your ability to deliver water will not be hindered by any extreme temps or weather events.

Additionally, having a tank heater ready or something available to break the ice in the tank will be essential on cold winter days.


First, keeping cows dry will be invaluable when it comes to helping your herd fight cold stress. According to a University of South Dakota article, a cow’s energy requirements more than double when her coat is wet or matted with mud, compared to a dry coat.

Along with stay dry, staying out of the wind will be extremely beneficial when temps drop. An already cold day can become much colder with just a five mile per hour wind. Here’s a look at how air temperatures are impacted when wind speeds are added.

Wind Chill Temps. SDSU
Table provided by
Warren Rusche, South Dakota State University

While having the perfect shelter may be nearly impossible, especially when it comes to providing shelter or a windbreak to cows out on cornstalks, a bit of creativity may be the ticket in desperate events. Retired school busses and stock trailers serve as unconventional, yet effective and portable windbreaks.

Feed Supplement

As temperatures drop, cow energy requirements increase. Especially in the case of an extended cold spell, prepare to supplement in the form of energy, or in the case that the cows are already receiving a supplement, it might be necessary to increase the supplement already being given.

Body Condition

While one day before a cold spell is not the best time to “change” the body condition of a cow, it’s important to consider when preparing cows for the winter weather. Keeping the herd in a sufficient body condition is another layer of protection against the cold spells.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” When the weather forecast calls for extremely low temperatures, what other preparations are a must on your operation?

SOURCE: By Paige Carlson January 6, 2023 DROVERS

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