Get ready as cold weather continues

Spring is still several weeks away, whether you want to stage it relative to when the calendar indicates that spring arrives or the weather aligns with our definition of spring. So spring is relatively near, but how near?And, some take the notion that “cold is cold.”

Zero and minus five degrees Fahrenheit are just cold.

No, we can measure temperature and humidity and plan accordingly; we can even measure wind chill. And, we know that the degree of coldness affects nutrient requirements and behavior of dairy cattle.

Can you convince your banker that if you lose $10 per cow versus $50 per cow in 2014 that “broke is broke?” I don’t think so.

The idea of relativism is the subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. Too often we are passive about critical management issues on the farm, leading to a position that things are relatively OK.

Your position may be that “if it’s not broke, then it doesn’t need to be fixed” or “if thus and thus happens, then we will react to the situation.”

I heard a recent speaker use the phrase “If you STAY ready, there is no need to GET ready.”

I think there is a lot of truth (not relativism) to this statement. Thus, I want to provide a few thoughts for you to STAY ready for the cold weather that is yet to come in 2014:

1) With the low temperatures to date, feed intake by cows has been possibly higher than you expected. Is this going to compromise your forage supply? If so, plan accordingly now on how best to manage the inventory until the next hay crop or corn silage harvest.

2) Has the feed bunk become empty more frequently with these recent low temperatures? Then you need to be offering more per feeding or adding another feeding.

3) Have you noticed some inconsistency in the TMR? The frozen forage in the bunk needs to be busted and well-blended into the ration and make sure the scales on the mixer are working properly during the really cold days. When was the last time you checked the accuracy of the scales on the feed mixer?

4) The risk for hypothermia and slow growth for calves is high this year. Have you increased the milk replacer solids to your calves or increased the amount of liquid fed (per feeding or by adding an additional feeding)?

Are you using a high-protein, high-fat milk replacer or whole milk that is consistent in solids content? It is not too late in the season to make a change in the calf feeding program for the winter stress.

5) Are you providing a dry, warm environment for the calves, with adequate ventilation? Are you providing enough bedding (deep, dry straw will keep the calf dry and allow the calf to nestle within the straw to preserve body heat).

Does your housing system warrant the use of calf coats — the suppliers have not sold out of them for the season like the retail store for the winter cost that you wanted to purchase for yourself.

6) If you have seen a drop in milk when the reading on the thermometer has dropped, could some of this milk loss be due to a reduction in available water? Has ice build-up on the waterers or the area around the waterers become too icy such that water intake has dropped?

A decrease in water intake will directly decrease milk yield (milk is 87 percent water). Although you may have survived this winter without any major catastrophes and things are going relatively well, have you observed some changes at your dairy operation with the winter conditions?

This could be in performance of the lactating cows or calves or feed supply. I encourage you to critically evaluate the dairy for making plans now for the rest of the year. Just because things are going relatively well, profitability may be improved by making some changes in management philosophy and practices. Stay ready!

About the Author

Maurice Eastridge is a professor and Extension dairy specialist at Ohio State University. More Stories by Maurice Eastridge

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