New Publication Details Comparison Study on Winter Care of the Cow Herd

Oct 03, 2023

By Sherry Hoyer

Best management practices for winter care of the cow herd aren’t always evident, especially when those unfamiliar with raising livestock see animals outdoors in open fields during cold, snowy weather without apparent access to shelter. A recent Iowa State University study was designed to evaluate whether the effects of winter grazing or confinement for winter care of beef cows in Iowa would have any impact on the physical condition of the cow or the calf born to the cow in spring.

The study looked at two types of winter feeding and care, and compared three management groups of cows at two ISU farm locations from December to early March.

Project leader Garland Dahlke, associate scientist with Iowa Beef Center, said the cows were at least second parity and either Black Angus or a percentage of Black Angus and Simmental breeding, and all were due to calve mid-March through April.

"Half of the cows in all groups were placed in a feedyard with some degree of shelter, and the other half was assigned to a winter swath grazing protocol,” he said. “All were supplemented with better quality feed about three weeks prior to calving to ensure adequate forage quality for cows and their developing calves.”

Measurements throughout the trial included forage quality; weather data; water intake; cow weight, visual body condition scoring, mud scoring and ultrasound of 12th rib fat cover and ribeye area; and calving data. Although there were slight measurement differences between and among the groups by location, It appears that where feedstuff quality is similar between scenarios, there is no difference.

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