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Old 02-08-2019, 02:36 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Monitoring the cows (during a deep freeze)

As I mentioned in another thread, my home town is experiencing some cold weather right now. Temperatures in the region are getting as low as −46.5°C. That's cold enough for even the news media to take notice, and for Environment Canada to issue an extreme cold warning.

One article I've read mentions an effect of the weather on the ranching community for which I'd like some clarification:
Quote:
Originally Posted by CBC News
Adrienne Ivey, a cattle rancher in Ituna, Sask., said this weather is particularly hard for farmers with cows that are calving.

"As anyone who has had a child before knows, Mother Nature waits for no one and she certainly doesn't wait for warmer weather," Ivey said.

Ivey said that in these temperatures, farmers need to monitor the cows 24-hours-a-day, which sometimes means foregoing sleep.

"If it's somebody that does it all on their own, they are literally, sleep for an hour, get up and check, sleep for an hour, get up and check."
What exactly does "monitoring the cows" entail? I take it that we're talking about cattle that are chilling (ha!) in a field somewhere. Does the rancher just periodically drive or walk past them to check that they're not getting too cold? And apart from the cow being frozen to death, how would the rancher know anyway? And what if the cows are too cold—what is the rancher going to do about it? I'm guessing that moving them indoors is not an option, and even if it were, it would have been better to do this proactively rather than keep checking on them every hour.

Last edited by psychonaut; 02-08-2019 at 02:36 AM.
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Old 02-08-2019, 03:05 AM
nelliebly nelliebly is offline
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My scant knowledge comes from students whose families ranched. Cattle have to eat more frequently in frigid weather to help them stay warm, so ranchers bring them extra feed. Their rumen actually produce warmth. Some breeds fare better in cold weather; I'm assuming ranchers in cold climates primarily raise cattle breeds that withstand cold better. I know ice that forms on water troughs has to get broken up but am not sure how critical this is at night.

As far as getting up often at night, I can only think this has to do with making sure cattle aren't wet or muddy, which would make them less able to withstand cold. Oh, and a lot of ranchers where I lived put up windbreaks, usually straw bales.

Maybe someone more knowledgeable than I will come along and provide better answers.
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Old 02-08-2019, 03:19 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by nelliebly View Post
I know ice that forms on water troughs has to get broken up but am not sure how critical this is at night.
That's a good point. But when the temperature is well below freezing for months at a time, I don't think any amount of breaking up the contents of water troughs is going to keep it liquid. I assume that ranched cows simply eat snow (but would be happy to be corrected on this point).
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Old 02-08-2019, 04:00 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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If the problem is cows that are calving, then it probably means "figure out if any of them are going into labor, and stick around ready to catch the baby and make sure it doesn't freeze"

Easier said than done, because I know some (most?) animals can be quite reluctant to give birth with an audience. My FIL has kept goats for quite some time, and 'with the goat in labor for hours, then she drops the kid as soon as you go inside for a toilet break' is certainly a story I've heard from him
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Old 02-08-2019, 06:34 AM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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Why would you think that cattle would be in a field during the winter? Even in the UK, where temperatures rarely fall below -10C most cows are 'bought in' for the winter. There is no point leaving them out because the grass stops growing and they would need feeding anyway. There are some hardy breeds like the Highland Cattle which have a double coat of hair - a downy undercoat and a long outercoat which may reach 13 inches, and which is well-oiled to shed rain and snow. Even these need to be fed daily in winter.

The farmer with calving cows will stay in the byre with them in case of problems with a birth. Most cows can deliver a calf without too much trouble but like women in childbirth, there are always going to be a few problems.
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Old 02-08-2019, 06:37 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
That's a good point. But when the temperature is well below freezing for months at a time, I don't think any amount of breaking up the contents of water troughs is going to keep it liquid. I assume that ranched cows simply eat snow (but would be happy to be corrected on this point).
Although I live in a farming community, I am not a farmer. But I do know one way to keep water liquid during freezing weather is to bubble air through it. This technique is used near docks; I don't see any reason it can't be used near bovines.
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Old 02-08-2019, 07:22 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
Why would you think that cattle would be in a field during the winter?
Because the article I linked to has a photograph of cows in a field during winter.
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Old 02-08-2019, 07:24 AM
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Bovine births sometimes need assistance; repositioning the calf, giving calcium IV, drying off the calf, etc.

We have heated water buckets and a heated trough for our horses. I assume cattle have similar luxuries. Hydration is very important during extreme cold.
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Old 02-08-2019, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
Although I live in a farming community, I am not a farmer. But I do know one way to keep water liquid during freezing weather is to bubble air through it. This technique is used near docks; I don't see any reason it can't be used near bovines.
I did some Googling and apparently it is indeed common for cattle to remain outside during winter, and for them to eat snow (sometimes for up to 60 days as their only water source). This page from the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry seems pretty relevant. I found similar pages from the Government of Manitoba and the Government of Saskatchewan.
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Old 02-08-2019, 07:30 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
Because the article I linked to has a photograph of cows in a field during winter.
Oh, I should add that the photograph is credited to the same rancher interviewed for the article, and quoted in my OP. So I guess they're her cows.
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Old 02-08-2019, 11:16 AM
Flyer Flyer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
Why would you think that cattle would be in a field during the winter? Even in the UK, where temperatures rarely fall below -10C most cows are 'bought in' for the winter. There is no point leaving them out because the grass stops growing and they would need feeding anyway. There are some hardy breeds like the Highland Cattle which have a double coat of hair - a downy undercoat and a long outercoat which may reach 13 inches, and which is well-oiled to shed rain and snow. Even these need to be fed daily in winter.
LOL.

You don't understand how big the US is compared to the UK.

Who do you think is going to pay for the barn space to house dozens or hundreds of cows? Who do you think is going to pay the wages of 4-6 people to go find the cows in the first place and get them from where they are to the barn (which could be miles away)? It takes hours to move a herd just a few miles.

From last winter:
Quote:
Montana's memorable winter is making life miserable for ranchers whose cattle are struggling to survive in the deep snow, bitter temperatures and wind, particularly on the Blackfeet Reservation where significant losses are expected.

"This is a crisis," said Joe Kipp, chairman of the Blackfeet Nation Stockgrowers Association and a rancher with 200 head of cattle north of Browning. "This is a storm that has the potential to kill thousands of head of cattle."
https://www.greatfallstribune.com/st...ana/385388002/

From 2017:
Quote:
Thousands of cattle died or wandered off earlier this week when more than two feet of snow blanketed Southeastern Colorado.

The Colorado Farm Bureau estimates thousands of cattle died in the snowdrifts, according to KUSA.
https://www.ajc.com/news/national/th...0CPglinx8r7FL/

From 2016:
Quote:
Dairy farmers and cattle ranchers in Texas and New Mexico are still assessing losses and searching for missing livestock after winter storm Goliath’s blizzard conditions terrorized their operations. An estimated 15,000 dairy cows were killed in the storm, according to the Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD). After originally estimating upwards of 6,000 beef cattle fatalities, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) now believes that around 4,000 beef cattle lost their lives due to the storm.
https://www.agriculture.com/news/liv...t-in_3-ar51864

Lest you think that this is something new, it isn't.
Quote:
Although no human lives were lost, the 1989 blizzard was one of the greatest agricultural disasters in eastern Idaho history. An estimated 800 cattle and nearly 2,000 sheep died of exposure alongside a significant, but uncounted, number of elk, moose and coyotes from Feb. 2 to 6. Total losses were estimated at $912,000 (more than $1.7 million in today's dollars).
https://www.postregister.com/news/lo...8b9cdf986.html

Quote:
Two great blizzards hit western Kansas the first week of January 1886. The first blizzard began on the 1st around noon at Dodge City and continued until the early morning hours of the 3rd. . . .

It is not clear how many more cattle were lost across Kansas during this time. It was estimated that 75-80 percent of cattle had been killed in some counties. What is known is that this was the worst natural disaster for the entire state of Kansas. There was a livestock fence north of the Union Pacific railroad tracks in northern Kansas. Cattle would drift south with the storms and eventually wound up dying of starvation and exhaustion along the fence. It was said that a man could walk along the fence over bones all the way to eastern Colorado.
https://www.weather.gov/ddc/January1886Blizzards
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Old 02-08-2019, 01:13 PM
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Winter calving is a strategy some ranchers undertake with the hope of having bigger animals in the fall. Some years it works great. The cows are already being fed in the winter and are probably moved to smaller pastures that are closer to the barn. If the rancher also grows feed or farms it spreads out the work away from the spring busy time. It also provides a few more months of growth and hopefully access to a lot of high quality spring forage from the mama soon after giving birth. The problems come when you have a harsh winter. You might have two or three hundred pregnant cows that could give birth at any moment and you need to be there for every birth. Monitoring the cows is really looking for signs that a cow is going into labor.
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Old 02-08-2019, 02:12 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyer View Post
LOL.

You don't understand how big the US is compared to the UK.
As long as we're laughing at other posters' ignorance, I guess I could point out to you that Saskatchewan is not in the US.
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Old 02-08-2019, 06:40 PM
tampora tampora is offline
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One of my customers today in northern Minnesota was in the process of clearing space for his rented/borrowed calving shed. He apparently knew the approximate due dates for each of his pregnant cattle already and plans to import a shelter for those animals only during the week(s?) they are expecting.
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Old 02-09-2019, 04:27 PM
TSBG TSBG is offline
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Nothing useful to add but the thread title would be a good song name.
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:09 PM
dtilque dtilque is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
As long as we're laughing at other posters' ignorance, I guess I could point out to you that Saskatchewan is not in the US.
But the only significant difference, as far as this topic goes, is that Canada is colder in general.
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