Potential Spring Snowstorm Puts Livestock at Risk From Colorado to Great Lakes

“It is a little irresponsible to talk about amounts for any specific areas, but all of the ingredients point toward large areas seeing over 12 inches. Strong winds that develop with the snow are likely to lead to blizzard conditions where the heavy snow occurs,” he said.

Large areas could see gusts eclipsing 60 miles per hour. Feedlots in the Southern Plains may miss the snow, but still have high winds that could potentially damage equipment and buildings. The winds will also dry out soils and pastures and increase wildfire risk.


Baranick said ahead of the storm system from the Southern Plains to the East Coast, the ridge of high pressure should allow temperatures to soar well-above normal.

However, in the West, temperatures will fall 10 to 20 degrees below normal. The cold will spread eastward behind the system next week, and the temperature change will be dramatic.

“Across the north, where the heavy snow is expected to occur, the drop will be the most pronounced, slowing the melting of the snow for the following several days. Those low temperatures spreading eastward could lead to some late frosty conditions for wheat in the Plains and Midwest,” he said. (To see more from Baranick about the storm, go to https://www.dtnpf.com/….)

As many cattle producers are in the midst of calving time, they will keep a close eye on the thermometer, along with the wind impact.

As DTN has reported in the past, the likelihood of hypothermia in a newborn calf is going to be much higher under wet, windy conditions. (See tips on caring for and warming up calves in cold, wet, windy conditions at https://www.dtnpf.com/….) If a calf is born in unfavorable environmental conditions, be prepared to spend several hours to intervene, according to the article.

To learn more about how lower temperatures can affect calves, see https://extension.psu.edu/…; For tips on feeding calves with their changing needs at different ages and under challenging weather conditions, see https://www.canr.msu.edu/…. As for managing unweaned dairy calves in cold weather, South Dakota State University Extension provides tips at https://extension.sdstate.edu/….

Colorado State University (CSU) Extension has an extensive list of severe cold weather considerations for livestock owners at https://extension.colostate.edu/….


The CSU report suggests moving livestock before or at the onset of extreme winter weather. For short durations, landscape topographic features such as ravines, canyons, draws and natural windbreaks may be sufficient protection from the elements.

Low temperatures without wind are usually not enough to affect the performance of animals, although heifers close to calving should be checked on more frequently. Wind alone can cause the same effect on animals as exposure to a sudden drop in temperature. A 20-mile-per-hour (mph) wind is roughly equivalent to a 30-degree drop in temperature.

Livestock producers should use shelter, sheds or windbreaks during low temperatures.

Windbreaks that are taller and denser (have less openings) are more effective than other types of windbreaks. Windbreaks can be manmade or natural, generally trees.

Cattle in cold weather should have abundant and accessible feed, which will help them maintain body temperature; in severe cold weather, they will require extra feed to help maintain body condition.


Managing bulls can be critical in winter, considering they contribute half the genetics to a cowherd. DTN wrote about this in the past at https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Bulls generally lose anywhere from 100 to 400 lbs. During the breeding season, or about 10% to 15% of their body weight, research has shown. They need to regain the weight before the next breeding season, and for most producers, the time to put some weight back on bulls would be during the winter months.

Cold weather can have negative effects on bull fertility. Cold weather and wind chill can result in bull infertility with tissue damage to the scrotum.

Frostbite lowers semen quality in bulls, according to studies. The soundness score of semen quality of bulls with frostbite can drop significantly.

Producers should use breeding soundness exams with their bulls. There are four components of the exam: a general physical exam, a scrotal circumference measurement, sperm motility and sperm morphology.

This breeding soundness exam should be done four to six weeks prior to the breeding season.

Russ Quinn can be reached at Russ.Quinn@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN


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