As fall is approaching quickly, many of us are digging out our favorite sweaters, boots and scarves as we gear up for those chilly autumn days. While the majority of us dread the days when it drops below 40 degrees, dairy cows on the other hand thrive in the cold weather! In fact, dairy cows prefer being in an environment that is between 25 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the temperatures begin to drop, cows will begin to grow long, thicker coats that will serve as insulation. Another dairy cow fact is that they begin to pack on the pounds that serves as another protection from the cold. In the colder months, their bodies must work harder to keep themselves warm, meaning they use more energy. It is important that the farmer feeds a diet higher in energy to help the cows maintain the ideal body temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit. Feeding them diets higher in carbohydrates will provide the cows more energy for the cold weather.
While a dairy cow’s body can keep them warm, the dairy farmer steps in when it drops down to the more extreme temperatures. It is crucial that farmers make sure their animals always have access to dry bedding so that they don’t get wet. It is also important that the water troughs are not frozen so that the cows have access to water 24/7.
Keeping calves warm on the farm can be a little tricker. Calf ears and other extremities are prone to frostbite in cold weather. Dairy farmers typically put jackets on calves and earmuffs to keep them warm during the winter. The babies are bedded with straw in the winter so that they can nestle down into it and be protected from cold winds and snow. The calves are fed milk 2-3x/day typically and the milk is served at 101-105 degrees Fahrenheit. Like the adult cows’ change in diet, consuming the milk will provide calves the energy that is necessary to keep their body temperature regulated on the colder days.
Despite the weather, dairy farmers must take care of their animals 365 days a year. Whether it is a sweltering 100 degree day or below zero, taking care of their animals is the top priority.