Feed management during a winter storm

South Dakota State University Extension

Winter weather can wreak havoc on plans, both large and small.  In a feedlot, snow removal or equipment that is difficult to start can make maintaining feeding schedules challenging.  Delivering feed at consistent times, even in difficult weather, is important.
Ideally, feedlot cattle should be fed within 15-20 minutes of the same time each day. When storms disrupt feeding schedules, or in some cases cause a feeding to be missed, producers should wait for intake patterns to become consistent before making any ration changes or major adjustments in feeding amounts.
In addition, producers need to be disciplined with feed calls, because during cold weather and storms, cattle may become more aggressive at the bunk. If cattle are overly aggressive because of colder temperatures or other weather conditions, try to avoid increasing feed delivery above what they would be able to handle in normal conditions. For example, producers who use a 1-pound bump in feed delivery as their maximum during ideal conditions should not alter that rate in bad conditions.  If feed deliveries are greatly increased, when the storm is over cattle may not be able to maintain that level of intake and may go off feed. In addition, increased consumption of readily available carbohydrates like corn could cause digestive upset. Using loose hay to satisfy increases in appetite during storms may be a better approach.
If a day's feeding is missed, don’t try to compensate for that amount the next day. Again, use hay to satisfy appetites and slow intake until consistency is regained. In some cases, it may be advisable to feed a lower-energy diet such as one with 4-8 percent more roughage, until intake is regained and stabilized.
When winter storms are forecast, take steps to decrease the magnitude and effect of disruptions in feed schedules, including having your snow removal equipment ready before you need it. Increase pen bedding as needed, and make sure water troughs stay open.


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