Caring For Cows During Winter

Calves Cows Ketosis Pneumonia Winter

            The cold weather of late winter provides challenges to our cattle. Here are some of the situations I commonly see and my suggestions for solutions.

Calves in Cold Weather

            Until their rumens are developed, these baby calves are reliant on digestible energy intake to stay warm and grow. Immune function is greatly influenced by energy levels and body temperature. Here are considerations:

  1. High fat milk replacer – good quality milk fat is the best energy source for these babies.
  2. Increased feedings – during the coldest times, feeding 3 times per day for calves is very beneficial. Increasing the number of feedings is preferred to more milk per feeding for animals under 2 weeks of age.
  3. Consistency – the proportion of replacer to water should stay the same irregardless of how much is fed. Variations in the percentage of total solids can bring on scours.
  4. Proper temperature of milk – feeding milk or milk replacer at 101-105°F allows optimum digestion without the animal needing to use energy to heat up the milk.
  5. Bedding – dry bedding that animals can snuggle into helps conserve energy.


            The cold months bring on higher incidence of ketosis in fresh cows and with an increased number of LDAs. Ketosis occurs when too much body fat is being utilized too quickly as an energy source. All high producing cows need to utilize body fat in the first 4-6 weeks as they cannot consume enough energy in a normal ration to sustain their energy needs. Here are some management tips:

  1. Don’t allow dry cows to lose weight, even if they are heavy at dry-off.
  2. Watch for and address any lameness in dry cows or early lactation cows.
  3. After calving, offer free choice warm water to fill rumen.
  4. Closely monitor fresh cows. Any health issue will decrease feed intakes and thus increase fat mobilization.
  5. Heavy cows will be more likely to be low in calcium. Low calcium decreases feed intake.
  6. Providing some dry hay after calving helps with rumen fill and increases heat generated by rumen.
  7. Drenching ketotic cows with 300cc (10oz) of molasses once or twice daily is very beneficial.
  8. Dexamethasone at 10cc IM or IV helps increase blood sugar levels. I will repeat in 2 days if needed.
  9. IV 50% dextrose (only 250cc – ½ bottle) or dextrolyte (500cc) is useful in severe cases.
  10. Paul’s Keto-Care Boluses are a good complement to the molasses drench.
  11. Vitamin B-complex is beneficial. Injectable form at 20cc/day or Dr. Paul’s B-well Caps as an oral form

Early detection and treatment of ketotic animals will provide for fewer DAs and improved milk production and ease of rebreeding.


The fluctuating and damp weather that comes as we approach early spring sets the state for pneumonia in our cattle. A reminder of a few management tips:

  1. Air quality – good ventilation is necessary even in cold weather. Keep fan blades and shrouds clean to increase efficiency of air movement. Adjust curtains to match the weather, as best you can.
  2. Vitamin A, D, and E – make sure these levels are adequate.
  3. Ample bedding
  4. Immunization program for the major respiratory viruses, either as injectable, intranasal, or nosodes. My preference for injectable is Triangle S or Triangle 10 HB.
  5. Paul’s Aloe Pellets – these are very effective for bolstering the immune system during times of stress or when upper respiratory signs are noted, such as nasal discharge and cough. Consider this for the entire herd if you start to see a few clinical pneumonias.

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