Winter prep on the dairy farm

January 05, 2018

Much of the United States and Western Europe is facing severe winter weather and unusually cold temperatures in early 2018. The Independent reports that this is the coldest British winter in five years, and the United States’ East Coast has battled a powerful “bomb cyclone” storm that dumped snow as far south as Florida.

With such cold temperatures and extreme conditions, dairy producers around the Northern Hemisphere are taking extra steps to ensure cattle health. Here’s what experts recommend.

Watch out for teat health

Fred Hall, dairy specialist at Iowa State University Extension, advises producers to watch out for their cows’ teats as temperatures plunge, because skin damage can lead to mastitis.

“The teat has naturally occurring oils that help to prevent skin chapping, cracking and damage in cold weather, but washing plus pre- and post-dips can remove those oils and expose wet teat tissue to frigid temperatures,” he said. He advised blotting any excess liquid after teats are dipped, making sure the teat is dry before turning cows out of the barn.

According to Hall, teats can freeze in less than one minute when windchills dip to -25°F or lower. In addition to keeping cows away from icy winds, regularly cleaning loafing and free stall bedding areas is essential for preventing mastitis.

Preparing the whole farm for winter

Tracey Erickson, dairy expert at South Dakota State University Extension, reminds producers to keep a winter preparedness check list that includes:

  • Securing proper shelter for cows, with easily accessible calf hutches, deep bedding that can help maintain body heat, and adequate wind protection.

  • Stocking a two-week supply of fuel, feed, and veterinary supplies like mastitis treatments, antibiotics, bandages, needles, syringes, and more.

  • Repairing water lines and checking drinking fountain heating elements.

  • Clearing the yard for easy snow removal, and using snow fences to minimize snowdrifts where necessary.

  • Checking to see what in the barn needs repairs, including curtains, ventilation fans, the roof, doors, and heaters.

  • Winterizing farm equipment.

Neogen offers extensive product lines that help dairy producers care for their animals, including products to help with mastitis and cold weather conditions. Click here for more information.