How to Keep Milk Production Up in Cold Weather
As the temperatures drop, so can milk production. When it is cold, cows can divert their energy into maintaining body temperature instead of producing milk. What can you do to avoid that? Check out the tips below:
Revise Rations. “Cows need more calories to keep themselves warm, especially cows with less than moderate body condition,” says Karen Johnson, a University of Minnesota Extension educator. “Discuss with your nutritionist the ideal options for your herd and facilities.”
Additionally, Tony Hall, a nutritionist with Lallamand Animal Nutrition, says producers should allow higher TMR refusals. “Avoid cows running out of feed at the feed bunk and allow higher TMR refusals for the transition cow pens,” he advises.
Watch Water. Cows who don’t drink water, don’t make milk. “Be sure to be checking your waterer or water tanks regularly for frozen water,” Johnson says. “Frozen water or excessively cold water significantly limits the water and feed intake of our cattle.” Cows can draw water at a rate of 3 to 5 gallons per minute, so the water supply and system need to keep up with demand.
Cows prefer the temperature of the water to be between 40 and 65ºF, Johnson advises. Consider utilizing a thermometer to determine if tank heaters and waterer heating elements are in proper working order.
Monitor Body Condition Scores. “A reduction in either body condition scores or milk protein content can indicate cows are not receiving adequate energy,” Hall says. “In particular, watch the fresh cow pen. This group can be vulnerable as they undergo so many changes in the first few days of lactation.”
Additionally, Johnson advises producers to consider sorting out thin cows or heifers in order to provide them more specialized care such as a higher energy ration and less crowded, draft-free shelter.
Keep Cows Dry. Providing deep, clean, dry bedding is essential to help keep the animals warm, Johnson says. “The cow’s winter coat is her first protection against the cold. Keep her clean and dry with good bedding,” Hall says. “Cow grooming brushes are helpful, too.”
Check doors, windows and curtains to ensure they are sealed.
Consider Feed Additives. Wintertime ration changes and increased feed intake can create digestibility challenges. According to Hall, it’s a good idea to include a proven, rumen-specific active dry yeast (ADY) at all stages of lactation to lower the risk of Sub Acute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA). Other additives like bypass fats could aid energy levels as well.