Cattle wintering questions for Northerners

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by francismilker, Feb 23, 2011.

  1. francismilker

    francismilker Udderly Happy! Supporter

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    I've read over my years here on HT about keeping cattle indoors during the winter months. (Some say November-March)

    Is this due to extreme cold temps that set in and never leave? I've got an uncle who was raised in North Dakota that talks about having to use a horse-drawn sled to get hay to the cattle during several feet of snow cover but he never mentions keeping animals barned. (His family raised a couple hundred head of beef cattle West of Minot.)

    If in fact you do keep them indoors all winter, is it a daily manure removal olympics? I can look at my coral after a day's worth of keeping the animals penned and see hundreds of pounds of manure. How do you do it for those of you that have several head of bovine? Keep in mind, I'm from an area that rarely sees temps below freezing for over a week's time. As well, the dairy I worked on was a parallel milk parlor and that was the only time the cows came under roof. (other than being in a covered holding pen while they waited for their turn in the parlor.)

    I'm not familiar with tie stall barns and free stall barns other than seeing them in pictures. Do the cows literally stay tied up all the time and get milked in place? For those of you like Springvalley who milk in a flat stlye parlor do the cattle stay out on pasture until milking time?
     
  2. scholtefamily

    scholtefamily Well-Known Member

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    I only had 3 milk cows over the winter and can say keeping the barn clean of manure is a daily chore(nightmare). Our cows had free access to the barn at all times during the winter. They only chose to go outside on days that it wasn't that windy. The temp didn't seem to bother them as much as the wind.

    I'm also interested to hear what other folks have to say on this matter.
     

  3. horsepoor21

    horsepoor21 Wyn~D Farm Supporter

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    We only have 5 cows (1 Jersey and the rest are angus crosses). They all stay outside ,they have access to a loafing shed . We refuse to baby them .LOL I cannot imagine having to clean stalls every day with frozen cow slop . No way .

    Our friend's over by Great Falls have over 300 head of black angus . They never bring any of their's in . They even calve in February . They also keep a few holsteins for bottle calves . They don't stay inside either .

    I think it's ridiculous . LOL :bash:
     
  4. SpaceCadet12364

    SpaceCadet12364 Well-Known Member

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    Our Highlands are rarely in the barns in the wintertime. They are more apt to be in the barn & shed in the summer when it gets hot...not many trees on our place.
     
  5. Tad

    Tad Well-Known Member

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    We have a herd of 70 milkers that stay inside from nov-mid april. They used to go outside and eat from a feed bunk while we cleaned the barns and swept the mangers but since we have gone to balage fed in the barn they no longer go out in the winter time. We live 30 miles SE of Buffalo and get snow all the time and we have seen parts a bare ground peak out once around new years and then again last week. I have a pic on my phone of the pasture gate post that is 5 ft tall sticking about 6 in out of the snow. When we first started feeding in the barn Dad insisted they go out to excercize and the went out for 1 and 1/2 hours stood in the cold and stared at the barn, as the ice and snow started to build up we were going through 3 bags of rock salt a week to keep the ice in check. When we opened the gates they were cold hungry and would come running back into the barn, they would eat the balage and then couldn't get any water because the water would freeze while they were out. Then one day in the mad dash for the door a cow slipped comeing into the barn and another cow tried to jump over the top of her, one had a knee swell up so big she could hardle lay down and the other injured a back leg and we had to help her get up in her tie stall for months. That wasn't the way I wanted to win that argument but I did, they no longer go out. We get rid of the snow about mid april all though lake effect snow is expected till mothers day. All it takes is a cold front to pick up lake water and drop it in solid form. We feed them outside to get tanned up and get the muscles limber and then they start rotational grazeing around the first of may. As far as the manure we have a barn cleaner, there is a chain with paddles on it in the gutter you flip a switch the chain is pulled around the barn and dumped into the spreader. Take out 2 loads a day every day, the cows get out of the cold and ice but not me!
     
  6. BlackWillowFarm

    BlackWillowFarm Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have 3 family cows and a steer. Winters can be pretty mean here in Michigan so I let them go in and out as they choose. It makes an awful mess, but I'd rather clean up after them than make them stand out in sub zero temps with the wind blowing or freezing rain, or worse, getting frostbit teats on my milk cows. Just last night it snowed, then thunder and lightening, then rain, now ice.

    We do have cold temps to deal with beginning in Nov and lasting until March'ish. If I had to add up the days where the weather was so awful that the cows were locked in the barn I'd guess it would be around 14 days or so. That's not so bad really.

    Most of the time I could leave them outside, but since no one is home to open the barn if the weather turns bad I let them choose if they want in or out.
     
  7. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    barns are for the farmers not the stock. (took me a lotta years to find that out)
    We have 25 milk cows and they stay outside year round. We do have a coverall hoop with no ends that we can put them in if it gets really wet and cold. But if it's just cold they stay out.
    We have yet to put them inside but a wet spring could change that. We currently keep the youngstock in there.
    We push piles of snow up for windbreaks. Only issue is making sure the teats are dry before they leave the parlor.
    We graze and feed round bales of hay. They get an estimated 4 pounds of grain during the cold months. When the grass comes back on they will only get a taste of grain to get them into the parlor. Something like a third of a scoop for 8 girls......We do feed mineral and kelp in the parlor as well.
    We have Holsteins running around here that are 16 years old...a Holstein/Angus cross just delivered her 13th (near as we can remember) calf this morning.


    http://script-host.com/self/parlor/outside1.jpg the girls out on pasture in the snow
    http://script-host.com/self/parlor/fireball.jpg Not the new calf but it shows the hoop....


    As a kid we milked 40 or so in a tie stall barn. Yes they stayed in their stalls all winter other than a few hours during fair days when we would turn them out for some exercise.
    We cleaned barn once a day and hauled manure with an JD 720 with no cab....not so fun here in WI I can tell you.
    Nowadays most barns have a manure pit and that chore is almost relegated to the history books.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2011
  8. randiliana

    randiliana Well-Known Member

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    We're running 150 beef cows right now, the only time they might see a barn is at calving time, and that is only if it is cold out or if we have to assist one. It's enough work keeping the barn clean during calving, I sure wouldn't want to do it all winter.... Otherwise they are outside 24/7. That includes the Holstein nurse cow and 2 Holstein/Angus cows too. They have windbreak for the really nasty days. As far as feed, they get alfalfa or alfalfa/grass hay and usually some sort of greenfeed. The only grain the mature animals get here would come out of baled crops. We don't pail it. The replacement heifers do get some grain, keeps them growing over the winter.

    francismilker, we would probably not be too far from where you're uncle lived. We are more or less straight north of Glasgow, Montana. About 30 miles north of the Can/US border.
     
  9. Molly Mckee

    Molly Mckee Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Dairy farmers usually keep very good records.They can see what happens to their milk production when they keep the cows in or let the cows out, or any other management changes. The reason dairy cows in the area of WI I grew up in stay in in winter is simple. Their milk production goes down when they are colder. They need more calories to produce the same amount of milk so need more feed. A good dairy farmer is constantly watching his production and making adjustments.
    Beef farmers don't have the day to day production records that dairy farmers do. Their cows are not in high milk production during the winter, so cold is not as much of a problem, although most beef farmers (not ranchers) do have some type of cover for their beef cattle in the cold, humid parts of the country. The feed conversion is better when the cows aren't try to maintain their body temps as well as grow or grow calves. Beef ranches are much larger and usually only bring their cows in when they are about to calve, either they have a calving pasture or barn where they can watch the calves. In the more arid areas of the country the cows don't burn as many calories to keep warm. It's all really based on the economics of the given situation.
     
  10. thequeensblessing

    thequeensblessing Well-Known Member

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    We keep our dairy cows in during the winter months, for several reasons.
    1. As stated above, if my cow isn't expending energy/calories fighting the cold/rain/snow, she has more energy to put toward making milk. I also can keep condition up better with them in the barn.
    2. My pastures don't get turned up and turned into mud pits when the livestock are off it during the winter/early spring.
    3. I don't have to worry about ice injuries. We've had a cow go down on the ice, and it's not pretty, and can be deadly.
    4. Many dairy animals just don't do well in the extreme cold. Pneumonia is common with unhoused dairy animals around here.
    5. Cleaner animals make for cleaner, more sanitary milking.

    We keep our cattle in box stalls or if they are milking, in stantions. We keep them bedded down and clean out the stalls with a snow shovel twice a day. It all goes into a manure spreader and on the weekend, it's spread out on the hay fields.
     
  11. horsepoor21

    horsepoor21 Wyn~D Farm Supporter

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    randiliana , you're not far from me ! I'm just south of the border 10 miles , by Scobey !
     
  12. springvalley

    springvalley Family Jersey Dairy Supporter

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    Well I guess it is my turn to tell all, I NEVER leave my cows in the barn in the winter. My Father did and I hated it, we have a large loafing shed for the cows to spend their time in. I feel it is much better for my cows to be out and able to walk around, get a drink and eat when ever they want. And I hate cleaning out the barn everyday, Well I mean a ton of poop everyday. My calves stay in the barn all winter and the box stalls are a showing it, the skidloader will sure be busy this spring. I had been feeding hay in the field most of the winter till we got that big snow, I`m now feeding hay in the yard south of the barn. Most old timers always kept the cows in the barn all winter, the feed was all there, and most barns of the day had litter carriers for manure removal. But most only milked 12 to 20 cows at the most. We had a round barn not far from our farm when I was growing up, it was cool, 24 cows in a circle, silo in the center, and hay up stairs. I always wanted that barn, but it fell in disrepair and finally burnt down a few years ago. > Thanks Marc
     
  13. Apryl in ND

    Apryl in ND www.FeralFarm.co

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    I'm in North Dakota 30 miles south of Canada. Wind chills of -40 tonight. All of the farmers with beef cattle around here just bring them up to the house in the winter. They have trees planted around their yards and have the cattle area on the north and west sides blocked with 6' + tall sheet metal panels as a wind break. A lot of them will start calving soon (crazy I think).

    I only have one cow and four goats. They have access to the whole pasture but stay in the barn on their own terms most of the time. They just go out to drink and eat. I just make sure to put fresh hay or straw in the barn over the poo. So right now there is probably 1.5 feet or more of packed bedding that will suck to get out come summer. I might put some pigs in the barn to root it up so it's easier to move.

    My chickens however are locked up from November to March.
     
  14. springvalley

    springvalley Family Jersey Dairy Supporter

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    Oh, I had remembered something this morning, My Father kept his cows in the barn at nights and nasty days during the winter months. And I remembered what we use to find in the barn in the morning once and awhile that I didn`t like when I was a kid. The cats would get in the straw we put down for the cows so they had a nice bed on cold nights. Well once in awhile we would find kitty pancakes in the morning where the cows would lay on them in the night and the cats had no chance. And it was always your favorite that it happened to. So I feel I have saved a few cats by not leaving my cows in the barn at night. HeHe > Thanks Marc
     
  15. thequeensblessing

    thequeensblessing Well-Known Member

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    As I said, we clean out our barn every week. It only takes about an hour or two, and it keeps us from having a huge mess to try to clean out in the spring.

    We have a hay loft overhead, and the loft floor boards are missing along the side walls of the barn. We have hay racks along the walls of the barn. So, we go up in the loft, and feed hay down through the missing floor boards directly into the hay feeders on the wall. Makes it much easier to feed!
    We have water in our barn and all of our animals have free access to water all day, every day. We grain twice a day, when we milk.
    We find that having all the animals in the barn really warms it up to the point where we don't need heat lamps for the little lambs, even in the extreme cold of winter. The thermometer says it's usually about 20 degrees warmer in the barn than outside.
     
  16. randiliana

    randiliana Well-Known Member

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    Amy, you are pretty close to us. We are about an hour from Opheim (west).
     
  17. lonelyfarmgirl

    lonelyfarmgirl Well-Known Member Supporter

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    we keep our beef cattle outside all the time. we don't have a barn for them.
    the dairy guys here, those that have tie stalls, which are most of the smaller ones have a trench in the center with a chain to move out the manure.

    the mega farms have free stalls, and they move the cattle down to the next section every 8 hours or so and clean out the manure with a rubber scraper attached to the front of a skid loader, but their barns are huge.

    We do have a 3 sided shed that is on wood runners, and we drag it to the next section with the tractor twice a year, and the manure pack stays there. the pigs tear it up later.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2011
  18. Apryl in ND

    Apryl in ND www.FeralFarm.co

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    Thequeensblessing- I wish I had a barn like yours. Maybe someday.

    Mark- That happened to one of our kitties just last week :( And it was our favorite cat. We don't even bother getting any of our cats fixed anymore or giving away any kittens because in the 2.5 years we've lived here we have lost 15 cats to accidents and mysterious disappearances. Probably coyotes.

    Lonelyfarmgirl- The moveable barn is a great idea.