Winter Dairy Tips

Dec 21, 2020

Tara Jo Bina
Countryside Feed Livestock Nutrition
Cold temperatures, wind, and humidity are the recipe for bone chilling conditions that can result in frost bitten, chapped or cracked teats, and other teat damage that predisposes cows to mastitis. Managing dairy cattle properly through cold stress can lead to healthier, more productive cows in the long run! Here are a few tips to consider this winter on your dairy:

Provide adequate shelter
Preventing cows from enduring extreme cold temperatures is very important to promoting teat health in the winter. Providing wind breaks for cows in drafty areas will block wind that contributes to dangerous conditions.

Clean, deep bedding
The goal of bedding cows is to keep them warm and dry. Deep bedding gives cows a warm place to lay down while resting. In extreme cold scenarios, adding straw, wood shavings, etc. can increase nesting ability, creating a warm pocket for cows when laying down.
Clean, dry cows are able to maintain their body heat better than dirty, wet cows. Be sure to regularly clean stalls to remove soiled bedding. This not only helps keep cows clean and dry, it reduces the number of bacteria teats are exposed to. Organic bedding, such as straw, can be a good option to bed cows, but can provide ideal growing conditions for bacteria if they are not kept clean.

Continue mastitis control protocols
Chapped and cracked teats have injuries to the barrier to mastitis causing bacteria. As cold temperatures settle in, it is important to continue pre- and post-dipping teats to reduce bacterial exposure. When wind chills are cold enough to increase the risk of frost bite, blotting teats dry after post dipping is encouraged!
Milk profits are impacted by Somatic Cell Counts (SCC) year-round, so continue to monitor SCC in the winter. Greg Thompson gives a great review of SCC and ways to manage it throughout the year in this article.

Heifer considerations
Heifers are also subject to teat damage. Providing adequate shelter, and dry bedding are just as important in heifers as they are in lactating cows! Another challenge heifers present is “sucker” heifers. Removing heifers that try to nurse other heifers can be beneficial. Sucking creates a double-edged issue in the winter that can lead to heifers freshening in with mastitis or blind quarters: 1) wet teats are more susceptible to freezing, 2) sucking introduces bacteria to the teat canal that can produce infections.

Make necessary ration changes
Increases in feed intake is typically observed when temperatures drop. If body condition scores (BCS) start to decline in the winter, adjustments may be needed to provide enough energy for cows to maintain BCS and production. Monitor your cows BCS closely in the winter and discuss changes with your Countryside Feed representative.
Providing chelated trace minerals (such as zinc, copper, manganese, etc.) to cows is also a great way to promote a healthy immune system, reduce occurrence and severity of mastitis, and quality milk production. Countryside Feed offers several premium quality mineral sources including Availa ® 4 and Zinpro® zinc methionine to help with immunity and reduction of SCC.
Contact your Countryside Feed representative to discuss these and other tips for managing your dairy cattle through the colder months.

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