Written by: Glenda-Lee Allan Vossler
The extreme temperatures are not only hard on people, but on animals as well.
Ideally, cattle will have gone into the winter in good body condition.
Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist Catherine Lang says thin cattle unfortunately do not have the fat reserves that they need, and they require more feed than a cow in good body condition does to tolerate the cold months.
"It's just kind of a general rule that thin cattle require more feed just to stay warm. We figure that somewhere around 50 to 70 per cent more feed during cold snap compared to a cow with the same fat cover."
Livestock feed requirements increase in the colder weather as they burn more energy trying to stay warm.
With last year's drought and lower yields, feed stocks are low, which has also increased prices.
Lang cautions producers about the possibility of impaction if using lower quality feed.
"Impaction can occur when they're eating too much to get through their rumen at the right timing, I guess. So some things we tell people to look for is a rumen that looks very distended. They're not really eating, but they look like they're full. "
She recommends when looking at bumping up feed requirements that animals have access to a quickly digestible carbohydrate that will help to give them extra energy.
Studies show that producers should look at increasing grain or pellets for cattle at a rate of one pound, per head, per day for every five degree Celsius drop in temperature below minus 20.
She says it's also a good idea when making that determination to always use the afternoon high temperature.
"If the afternoon air temperature is around minus 35 degrees Celsius, which is where it was last week. We do recommend to feed an additional three pounds of grain or pellets per cow, per day."
She cautions however, in order to prevent acidosis you should not feed grain over eight pounds, per head, per day at once, instead it is better to look at breaking it into two feedings to keep the rumen stable.
Some studies have indicated a benefit to feeding the extra hay in mid-afternoon or early evening to help with the animals' rumination process which keeps them warm to help get them through the coldest part of the night.
"If you can, try to feed them in the afternoon before it gets real cold at night. They do spend the evening and nighttime ruminating, which keeps them warm. If your not normally a night feeder I wouldn't hold off and wait. If you're typically feeding in the morning, don't wait to feed them in the afternoon, feed them when you normally do. But if you could put a little more out before nighttime or feed a little extra in the morning, so they have more to eat on throughout the day, that will help them stay nice and warm throughout the night as well."
In general, producers should also make sure they have a good balance of calcium to phosphorus in the diet, or about 2:1.
Calcium is needed for the nervous and muscular systems to function properly, while a phosphorus deficiency can delay puberty in heifers and delay mature beef cows from returning to heat.
Lang notes you've also got to get the cattle out of the wind.
"Although it's cold, they can usually handle being cold, but they usually can't handle being chilled. So getting some extra, whether that's wind breaks or bales or something just to cut that wind, can help prevent some trouble when it comes to this extreme cold."
With the bitter cold temperatures as well as increasing feed, and making sure animals have shelter, it's a good idea to check water supplies throughout the day to make sure they have access to a good water supply.
Producers looking for more information or advice on feeding requirements can contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.