As winter brings Arctic air to many areas, dairy producers should be prepared for conditions that can affect young stock and lactating cows. South Dakota Cooperative Extension Dairy Specialist Alvaro Garcia says producers should protect young calves from inclement weather and air drafts and should provide clean, dry bedding. “If using milk replacer, choose those that contain 20 percent fat, as they provide additional energy,” Garcia says.

“Although usual recommendations are to feed milk at 10 percent of bodyweight, during extremely cold weather it will be necessary to increase this amount.” Encourage starter intake by making drinking water available at all times.

“Make sure the water does not freeze in the pails and offer lukewarm water two to three times a day to encourage feed consumption,” Garcia says. “This also counteracts the effects of cold stress, and it’s important to keep the coats of calves as clean and dry as possible.”

Lactating cows that are adequately fed should withstand cold conditions provided they are kept dry and not exposed directly to winds.

Keep the housing area dry and free of manure and provide an ample supply of dry, clean bedding daily. Garcia notes that teat-skin chapping or frostbite can become a problem in lactating cows during cold, windy weather.


Chapping makes the teat more susceptible to bacterial infections, particularly Staphylococcus.

“Mastitis is a possible outcome, and the cows affected will have to be monitored closely,” Garcia says. “If injury has already occurred, skin chapping and loss of at least the teat end is likely.

When the teat end is damaged, the sphincter that closes the teat canal is also non-functional, predisposing the quarter to bacterial invasion.”

Recent research indicates teat dipping should be continued during cold, windy days. Pre-milking and post-milking teat dips should include skin conditioners.

Garcia also points out the cold weather guidelines from the National Mastitis Council . They include:

• Dip only the teat end and blot off any excess with a single-use paper towel.
• Teats should be dry before turning cows out of the barn.
• Warming dip reduces drying time.
• Fresh cows with swollen udders are more susceptible to chapping. PD

—Excerpts from South Dakota State University news release