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Monday, October 3, 2016

September 2016 GPA Ag Newsletter

Check out the newest issue of the 2016 Golden Plains Area Ag Newsletter at the following link  

If you would like to receive this newsletter by email, just call or email at 970-332-4151 or

Mineral Antagonism - Important Minerals May Not Be Reaching Your Livestock

By Chris Shelley, CSU Extension Area Livestock Agent

This is a remarkable time to be in the livestock industry. The overwhelming amount of research and technology has elevated livestock production to a level of proficiency unimaginable by our predecessors. From artificial insemination technology to invaluable pharmaceuticals, sometimes it seems like we may have everything figured out. However, the complexities of an industry that involves range land ecosystems, weather patterns and animal biology are far from being completely understood.

Despite one’s best efforts to apply sound research and modern technology, some problems can still arise. Although most cattlemen today provide a mineral supplement containing many macro and trace minerals, it is possible to have inadequate mineral absorption by livestock. Common reason denotes that if the recommended amount of mineral is supplied in the diet, the cattle will have what they need. This is not always the case and mineral antagonism can be the culprit.

One example of mineral antagonism occurs with copper. Copper plays an important role in bone density, immune function, growth and fertility. Copper varies considerably depending on the forage source and geographically, and is often deficient in grazing cattle diets. A rancher that is supplying the recommended amount of copper (10 mg/kg of diet, NRC 2000) for his cattle may still have cattle with a copper deficiency. Molybdenum, Iron and Sulfur all can interact with copper, making it unavailable to the animal. We call this an antagonism, which can cause a deficiency just the same as the absence of copper from the diet.

Figure owned by Chris Shelley

Many cattle producers are skilled at diagnosing the visual cues and production decreases caused by disease or malnutrition. If something does not seem right, err on the side of caution and investigate further. Although one can directly sample the cattle’s copper status from the liver and blood, the easiest and recommended method is to sample the diet. A quick sample of the forage being consumed, along with a water sample, will indicate what level of minerals the cattle are consuming and how to best balance them to avoid an antagonism.

Sample collection in and of itself is a straightforward process and many labs have instructions and tips on the correct procedure. The more daunting task is interpreting the results received and how to proceed forward. This process involves calculating mineral levels in the feeds, verifying animal requirements and a basic understanding of scientific units and conversions.

There are several resources to help with this task. Your local CSU Extension offices are happy to help as well as mineral dealers who are trained in that field. The most important thing to remember is a balanced nutritional plan can save on feed costs and improve animal performance.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Right Tools for the Job

By Chris Shelley, CSU Extension Area Livestock Agent

Everyone knows life can be tough and that finding the right resources when you need them can be even tougher. What you may not know is that Colorado State University Extension is here to help!

The Smith and Lever Act of 1914 marked the birth of the Cooperative Extension Service. Since then, Extension programs have been serving Americans in many ways. However, even with over 100 years of service, we still meet people that are unfamiliar with what we do.

In short, Extension is here to help you. The Smith and Lever act stated that the land grant universities (like CSU) are to provide instruction and demonstrations in agriculture and home economics. Today, CSU Extension still provides trusted, practical education to help you solve problems, develop skills and build a better future, only the scope and focus has broadened with the needs of Coloradans.

CSU Extension is now helping in the areas of Agriculture, Animal Health, Energy, Home, Family, Finances, Food Safety, Health, Insects, Natural Resources, Nutrition, Water, Yard and Garden, and 4-H Youth Development. We have many agents and specialists all over the state of Colorado who are ready to help.

Lou Swanson, the current Director of Extension, implemented a new approach to Extension work in Colorado. It brilliantly pairs local concerns and interests with University research and information. We conduct needs assessments in the community and talk to as many people as we can to get a direction for the programs we offer. Unfortunately, we cannot reach everyone, but we hope that you will contact us if you see a need in the community or if we can help you.

As a livestock agent, I have the privilege of working with producers in northeastern Colorado. Recently, a man called the office and wanted to learn more about grazing and the nutritional needs of his cattle. We spent some time doing range inventory, assessing the nutritional needs of his cattle and balancing rations. Today, he feels more confident with stocking rates on his operation based on the amount of rainfall and forage produced. He also knows his cow’s nutritional needs to achieve the level of performance he wants. The best part is that many of our programs and help is free.

So the next time you wonder when to prune your trees, if your pressure canner is still safe, or how much crude protein your heifer calves need, give us a call. We’re here for you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mineral Supplementation for Your Herd

by Chris Shelley
CSU Extension

Mineral supplementation has been a part of livestock nutrition and management for well over one-hundred years and still remains just as important today. The first documented case of mineral supplementation was by George Fordyce in the late 1700’s. Researchers have since documented 17 important minerals required by beef cattle. Many of these minerals are found in commonly used feedstuffs; however, some cattle diets can be deficient or devoid of certain minerals.

Cattle requirements for minerals, or any nutrient for that matter, may change depending on a variety of factors including the age, stage of production, body size, temperature and even the diet they are eating. This makes it very important to be able to identify in which stage of production your animal is and their corresponding nutrient requirements. When considering mineral nutrition in Northeastern Colorado, there are several key events: lactation, spring grass grazing, fall grass dormancy, corn stalk grazing and any major diet change.

For most of the required minerals, cattle can tolerate a wide range in the level of supplementation. If we use cobalt as an example, the minimum amount that cattle need is 0.1 mg/kg in the diet on a dry matter basis. Signs of toxicity are not seen until 100 times that amount, or at 10 mg/kg in the diet on a dry matter basis. These ranges provide flexibility for cattle producers to select from a variety of supplement options. However, over feeding can lead to excess mineral excretion and in some scenarios environmental concerns. Feeding excess minerals is also an economic inefficiency and is unnecessary. Providing a year round all-purpose mineral can be convenient, but may over or under supply expensive nutrients. It is more effective and economical to determine cattle requirements and mineral concentrations in feeds at various stages throughout the year so a precise supplement can be designed. Understanding animal requirements and nutrients supplied can create the potential to save money.

The following graph depicts the mineral requirements (blue bars) with toxic levels (red bars) for a 1000 pound cow in early gestation consuming 25 pounds of forage on a dry matter basis.

Building a custom mineral program for your herd does not need to be a laborious process. Cattle producers in Colorado have many resources available to them including Colorado State University Extension, the USDA, and many mineral manufacturers. If cattle are predominantly grazing on rangeland, the process should begin from the ground up. Frequent analysis of soils and forages will provide invaluable information on the minerals and other nutrients available to your herd. Any mineral deficiencies found can then be addressed with supplementation.

Today’s producer can select from a variety of options to make sure cattle have their needs met. The choice can be difficult with the vast options and products. Many additives including ionophores, probiotics or other health products may also influence your decision. When considering only the minerals, there are several methods of feeding or delivery available. First, and not in order of importance, is supplementing your rangeland or farmland soils to bolster up the level of minerals in the forages and feeds. Second is the option to mix minerals into a complete ration. This method is effective for complete mineral delivery, as animals consuming the diet will also consume the mineral. In grazing operations, and with no complete mixed ration being fed, a third option is to provide a free choice supplement where cattle have access to consume as much or as little of the supplement they want or need. It can be challenging to manage the desired mineral consumption. Lastly, an injectable dose of minerals can be an effective way to deliver minerals. This is also a very effective method to deliver the exact desired level of supplementation.

Regardless of which product and method you choose to implement, there are a few key points to remember.

1. Know your animal requirements
2. Know what is being supplied in the diet
3. Find a supplement that supplies what you are lacking
4. Compare the price of various supplements

For additional information or for help to customize your mineral program, contact your local county extension office.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

North Eastern Colorado Cattlemen’s Day

"Last year was not as good for cattle producers as 2014 had been. Cattle prices in 2015 were lower in some cases by $500 per calf. Mother Nature, as usual, was unpredictable but generally wetter than previous years. Input prices also continued to creep upward- forage was no exception.

As a cattle producer, you may have questions about what to do next in 2016. A series of meetings in ten locations across western Nebraska and eastern Colorado will be focusing on the changing beef industry." -Excerpt from Kacy Atkinson, CSU Extension Agent

Addressing these conditions will not be easy but CSU Extension is here to help.  NE Colorado will be offering two opportunities to attend the cattlemen’s day. It will be hosted in Yuma, on February 10, from 10 am to 2 pm at the Yuma County Fairgrounds. The cattlemen’s days will also be held in Brush on February 11, from 10 am to 2 pm in the 4-H building at the Morgan County Fairgrounds.

Numerous topics will be covered including:

“Mineral Supplementation for Your Herd,” Chris Shelley, CSU Livestock Agent

“Bulls by the Numbers,” Travis Taylor, CSU Extension Agent

“Importance of BQA in a Modern Beef Operation,” Kacy Atkinson, CSU Livestock Agent

“Fly Control for your Pastured Cattle,” Dave Boxler, UNL Extension (Yuma only)

“Increasing Reproductive Efficiency in the Cow Herd,” Randy Saner, UNL Extension

“Matching Your Calves to a Backgrounding System,” Erin Laborie, UNL Extension (Brush only)

“Grazing System Management and Using Annual Forages,” Troy Walz, UNL Extension (Brush only)

“Managing Replacements to Maximize Heifer Values, Can You Afford to Rebuild Your Herd?” Robert Tigner, UNL Extension (Yuma only)

Registration one week prior is needed for a meal count. Please send registrations, found on the Golden Plains Area Extension website, to:

Yuma County Extension 
310 Ash St. Ste B
Wray, CO 80758. 

Cost to attend is $10 per person if pre-registered or $15 per person at the door. For more information or to register by phone, please contact either Chris Shelley at 970-332-4151 or email

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Colorado State University will be hosting the 24th Range Beef Cow Symposium.  The meeting was first held forty six years ago and has since become an extraordinary educational event.  Those in attendance will receive knowledge and training from the top university researchers and industry professionals including the following topics:
  • Beef Quality Assurance Workshops
  • Livestock Marketing Information
  • Learning about Consumers
  • Reproduction
  • Genetics
  • Health and Management
  • Weather
  • Range/Grazing
  • Managment
The program will begin on Monday the 16th of November and continue through Thursday the 19th.  For more information and to register click on the following link.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

First Cases of Vesicular Stomatitis for 2015

The State Veterinarian's Office for Colorado's Department of Agriculture reported today that Colorado has had its first Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) cases in 2015.  The State Vets Office indicated that horses on two sites tested positive for VS making Colorado the fourth state to have positive cases.

Horses are primarily affected by VS, however many livestock species are susceptible.  Yearly insect migrations are considered to be the major source in spreading the disease with livestock transportation also playing a role.  Based on the mechanism of disease spread, prevention is the best management practice, especially for horse owners.  Daily fly control, especially on the ears, is recommended for disease prevention.  Due to the severe outbreak of 2014 with 370 quarantines, the State Vets office is urging livestock owners to practice disease prevention.  

For more information on VS, visit the Colorado Department of Ag website at 

or the USDA website at 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

eXtension has an "Update on HPAI Mixed Origin Virus"

Avian influenza is a concern for poultry producers and can affect prices seen at the grocery store.  A webinar on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) will be broadcast on:

Friday, June 26 at 12:00 pm MDT

or here

Dr. David Schmitt, Iowa State Veterinarian and Dr. Beth Thompson, Minnesota State Board of Animal Health will provide an update on the HPAI mixed origin virus that has had a significant impact on the poultry industry in many states this year.

Dr. Nathaniel Tablante, University of Maryland Extension Poultry Veterinarian, will moderate the session.

For other information on poultry visit,

Monday, June 22, 2015

Water Quality & Supply

by Chris Shelley
CSU Extension livestock agent

One of our most important resources, water, is making headlines across the US, in government agencies and even here in Colorado. We do not always think about its importance, but water quality and supply will affect the productivity of livestock. A quick and relatively inexpensive assessment provides valuable information on the quality of the water you are supplying to your livestock.

photo by brianfuller6385 @ flickr

Water makes up as much as 98% of the molecules in humans and livestock. Livestock use water for temperature regulation, digestion, growth, and many other bodily functions, making it very important for producers to know how much their livestock will drink. This is not always just as simple as looking up a value in a table. The ambient temperature, water temperature, diet, growth, lactation and the animal’s activity all play a part in how much the animal will drink. Your local extension office or animal nutritionist can help estimate the animals water needs.

Automatic fountains are a great way to supply livestock with all the water they may need, but bear in mind, each type of water unit for livestock has a limited number of livestock it can service. Alternatively, many choose to oversupply water to assure that their animals have enough. Trial and error, with frequent initial monitoring, can also be used to gauge livestock water consumption. Whichever system you choose, it is always a good idea to have an estimate of what your livestock will consume and what you have available. Remember that water requirements of livestock will change throughout the year.

Livestock owners should also ask themselves, “what else is in my water?”. Water is an excellent solvent, dissolving many polarized chemicals, elements and molecules. This comes in handy when mixing sugar in a drink or washing your car, but water can also dissolve things that may negatively affect your livestock. The water in your livestock tanks can contain anything from algal mycotoxins to dissolved salts and minerals.

Testing the quality of your water may feel like just another expense; however, poor water quality can decrease animal performance outweighing the cost of the test. Most analytical labs can run a water quality analysis for around thirty dollars and will test for pH, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and more.

Many wonder what to do with the complicated results received from the lab. What level of minerals, nitrates, and etc. your livestock can tolerate in water depends on how much is being supplied in the diet. Your local extension office is happy to help decipher results, balance rations, and determine which laboratory is best for you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sweet Itch

by Michael Fisher, Pueblo County Extension Director

While it is nice to see the rain following a lengthy drought, there are also issues that excess moisture can create or enhance.  One of those issues is an increase in bothersome insects.  Standing and stagnant water can be a breeding habitat for many of the biting insects.  With that in mind, here is an excerpt from an article that I wrote several years ago.  It addresses the affliction of sweet itch in horses and how this is caused by biting midges.

Sweet itch is a skin condition that can affect some horses.  It is caused when a susceptible horse is bitten by biting midges called Culicoides, the same parasites that are responsible for transmitting bluetongue among cattle and sheep.  These very small gnats (1 to 3 mm) swarm together for feeding.  Typically, the midges are nectar feeders; however, the female of the species requires a blood meal in order to mature her eggs.  The saliva that is left behind following the insect’s bite contains a specific protein molecule that the horse’s immune system considers to be a threat.  In sweet itch cases, the immune system over reacts and releases an overload of the antibody IgE.  This is followed by a cascade production of both cytokins and histamine to kill the invader.  However, the overproduction of histamine inflames the skin and causes intense, uncontrolled itching. 

Hypersensitive horses may pace endlessly and seek an unusual amount of mutual grooming from other horses penned with them.  They are also prone to excessive yawning and may be easily distracted when being ridden.  Additionally, they will rub, roll, paw, and bite at the affected area in an effort to relief the itch.  In turn, this activity tears away at their skin causing hair loss, abrasions, weeping soars, open wounds, and leading to secondary infections.  Often times the inflamed area will be around the tail, over the withers and through the mane, or about the ears and face.  Additionally, some cases may be along the spine or belly.  This variability is a result of a difference in feeding preference among the various varieties of midges.

As is the case with many allergens, a horse may develop a greater intolerance to sweet itch the more that it is exposed to the allergen.  Therefore, it is possible that the symptomatic horse’s condition may worsen with each passing summer. 

There currently is no real good treatment for the condition.  Steroids and antihistamines have been used to relieve the itching; however, these are only masking the condition and may lead to side effects that can be more harmful, such as laminitis.  Prevention is the best chance of avoiding a problem.  This may include the use of insect repellants in the horse’s stall or topical repellants regularly applied to the pastured horse.  Insecticides that appear to work the best in these situations are those that use either a permethrin or benzyl benzoate as an active ingredient.  Additionally, some equine enthusiasts will place a blanket or hood over the horse to prevent the midges from being able to bite into the horse.  Another successful tactic is to understand the midge in question and manage around it.  Most of the Culicoides will do their feeding from 4am to 10am and 4pm to 10pm.  Therefore, it is possible to keep your horse stalled during those times, in the airflow of a strong fan.  Midges are poor fliers and require calm air to be able to fly.  It is also advisable to drain still or stagnant water and remove decaying vegetation near the horse, as these are considered prime breeding habitat to the midges.

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 2015 GPA Ag Newsletter

Check out the newest issue of the 2015 Golden Plains Area Ag Newsletter at the following link  If you would like to receive this newsletter by email, just call or email at 970-332-4151 or

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

2015 Livestock Disease Update

Last year, several diseases were particularly damaging to Colorado livestock production. These threats are real possibilities again for 2015; however, education and management practices can limit the extent of their impact and severity. The following is a discussion about three viral threats to Colorado livestock and resources to help producers minimize their risk.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) is a corona virus that affects pigs of all ages. It is however, most devastating to sow farms with 100% mortality on piglets ages 3-5 weeks. It was recently diagnosed for the first time in the United States on a sow farm in Iowa in May of 2013. It is highly contagious between pigs and within a year, it had spread to 30 states with just short of 7,000 positive samples sent in. The viral strain is greater than 99 percent similar to the strain in China, but the method of entry into the United States is unknown. The disease is likely spread across states through livestock trailers. At processing plants, it is estimated that for every contaminated truck arriving, two will leave contaminated. The best way to protect against PEDV is prevention through biosecurity.

This disease is not zoonotic and not considered a threat to public health or the food supply. For more information on PEDV, visit

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Unlike PEDV, the Influenza virus is no stranger to the United States. Two strains of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), H5N2 and H5N8, have been confirmed in the United States. HPAI spreads easily in birds and poultry and has a high mortality rate. The main source of disease transmission is due to the wild bird population and their migratory routes. HPAI at this time is not considered a threat to public health or the food supply. Practice the following biosecurity measures to stop disease spread and keep your flock safe.

Colorado Department of Agriculture recommendations for Commercial Flocks
· Restrict on-farm access to essential employees only
· Practice on-farm disinfecting procedures (ex: foot baths and equipment cleaning)
· Use indoor facilities
· Do not have contact with other flocks and limit movement of birds, poultry workers, equipment, and transport vehicles
· Anyone entering the farm should use protective gear on egg farms
· Avoid contact with sick or dead poultry/wildlife
· If contact occurs, wash hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with domestic poultry

USDA APHIS recommendations for Backyard Flocks
· Wash hands thoroughly before and after working with your birds
· Scrub your shoes with disinfectant
· Clean cages and change food and water daily
· Clean and disinfect equipment that is exposed to your birds
· If you do borrow tools or cages, clean and disinfect them before they reach your property
· If visitors have birds of their own, do not let them near your birds
· If you have been near other birds, bird owners, pet/feed store disinfect shoes, clothing, and equipment before returning to your birds.

For a sick bird, call the Colorado Avian Health Call Line at Colorado State University (CSU): (970) 297-4008.

For a dead bird, submit to the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins for free HPAI testing: (970) 297-4008 or (970) 297-1281 or visit

For Multiple sick/dead birds, call either the Colorado State Veterinarian’s Office at (303) 869-9130 or USDA Colorado Office at (303) 231-5385.

Vesicular Stomatitis Virus

Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) affects most livestock, but particularly horses and cattle. This disease can be spread by insects, animal-to-animal contact, and by livestock transportation. The insects undergo yearly migrations that begins in Mexico and continue north as spring and summer commence.

 The first case of VSV this year was documented in New Mexico and has since been confirmed in Arizona and Utah. The location and severity of the disease varies from year to year. The outbreak of 2014 was particularly severe for Colorado with 370 premises with positive diagnosis. Livestock owners can reduce the spread of the disease by practicing biosecurity principles and by implementing insect control. Although in rare circumstances, the disease can be spread to humans, this disease is not considered a threat to public health or the food supply. For more information on VSV, visit

For any unusual livestock/poultry disease or death, contact your local veterinarian. Your local Extension Office can also help direct calls and answer questions. The State Veterinarian’s Office can be reached at 303-869-9130.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Preconditioning Calves

Chris Shelley
Colorado State University Extension – Golden Plains Area

The health of newly weaned cattle can be the determining factor between profitability and loss of income in feeder calf and stocker operations. Preconditioning calves can help to reduce disease and increase profitability for multiple sectors of the beef industry. However, there are many factors to consider before preconditioning.

One of the most common diseases seen in young calves is bovine respiratory disease (BRD). Studies suggest that beyond death loss, BRD can decrease average daily gain, hot carcass weight, dressing percentage, actual carcass value, fat level, marbling and yield grade. These characteristics play a large role in the quality of the beef being produced. If contracted, BRD will likely decrease the value of the animal.

While carcass quality is important, the cost to treat sickness is the most important determination of profitability in feeder cattle operations. High costs associated with drugs and labor make it very expensive to bring cattle in and treat them. One study found that cattle treated once for BRD netted $40.64 less than those not treated. Those cattle treated twice sold for $58.35 less and those treated three or more times brought $291.93 less than cattle not treated. As such, keeping calves healthy is extremely important to feedlots and stocker operations.

Over the years, preconditioning has increased in popularity as a means to increase feeder calf health. Compared to calves with no previous history, preconditioning has been shown to reduce death loss and decrease sickness. Studies also show that the heavier the calf is, the less likely it is to get sick upon entrance to the feedlot. The weight gained during preconditioning can also be important in calf health. From this research and personal experience feeding preconditioned calves, many calf-feeding operations are willing to invest more in preconditioned calves.

There are many preconditioning programs available to cattle producers. Most have three main components: a health plan, weaning, and a weight gain period afterwards. Programs vary greatly on the vaccination plans used, methods of weaning, and the criteria for feeding after weaning. There really is no right or wrong answer. In fact, cattle producers are fully capable of designing a unique or adapted preconditioning program on their own operation. Some programs are widely known and bring with them a reputation that cattle buyers may recognize. Whether you choose a well-known program or create your own, it is important to build your reputation as a cattle producer that raises healthy calves. Here are some things to consider about preconditioning.

Increasing calf health is the main purpose behind preconditioning. Vaccinating cattle is one of the most critical tools in disease prevention. Regardless of the popularity of the preconditioning program, you should carefully discuss it with your local veterinarian.

Consider who will purchase your stock. It makes sense to feed bunk and trough adapt calves that are headed to the feedlot. Calves going to stocker operations can be fed much more economically on hay or pasture after weaning. Most preconditioning programs require 45 days of feeding the calves after weaning, though some may feed for longer.

There is increased risk for the producer in preconditioning. You are now responsible for the health of your calves after weaning. Although the calves may not have the added stresses of transportation, comingling, novel feed and environment, weaning can still be a stressful time. Again, work with your local veterinarian to develop a health plan and treatment methods during preconditioning.

Another risk is the fluctuation of the market. Become familiar with market data and predictions. High prices that would have been received may change by the time the preconditioning program is complete. In addition, current high beef prices have increased the “price slide” that is seen between different weight categories of animals. For example, a calf weighing 550 pounds, and bringing a price of $285.00 / cwt, may only bring $240.00 / cwt when weighing 700 pounds. The overall value of the calf increased by $112.50 and the producer should then ask the question: was the cost of preconditioning higher or lower than the increased value?

When considering to precondition it is helpful to remember that it may not be an effective management tool every year. Markets, consumer preference, and feed availability can vary year to year. An economic analysis through a partial budget can be done relatively easily and help you make an informed decision whether or not preconditioning is for you. For help with a partial budget or for any other preconditioning questions, contact your local extension office.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Severe Cold Weather Rangeland and Livestock Considerations

Severe wind and cold can cause significant problems for livestock and their owners. Evidence of such problems―the blizzard that struck South Dakota on October 4-5 of 2013. The wind, snow, and cold resulted in major cattle loss. The storm caught many by surprise and the loss was estimated to be approximately 5% of the region’s cattle herd. As an example in Colorado, the blizzard of 2006-2007 caused damage to livestock herds as well as buildings and fences.

What to Expect
  • Snow will drift when wind is present.
  • Drifting snow can cause damage to fences and buildings.
  • Water sources and stock tanks can become damaged or compromised.
  • Accumulations of snow can prevent vehicle access to feed or animals.
  • Accumulations of snow can bury or trap cattle, especially young animals, and prevent them from reaching shelter or feed.
  • Blowing wind and snow and create far more cold stress on animals than just the cold temperatures alone.
  • Snow will cause winter range or pasture to become inaccessible for grazing and more difficult to navigate as snow accumulates.
  • Ice storms will make pasture or winter range forage inaccessible, more so than snow alone.
  • If present, rangeland shrubs may be more accessible for livestock and be higher in protein than grasses.
  • Extremities that become wet or are normally damp are particularly subject to frostbite and freezing during sub-zero weather. Livestock may lose or have damaged ears and/or tails.
  • Male livestock may suffer cold damage to reproductive organs, which can impair fertility or the animal’s ability to breed.
  • Before or immediately at the onset of a blizzard or ice storm, move animals to feed and shelter promptly.
  • In short duration and small snow storms, landscape topographic features such as ravines, canyons, draws, and windbreaks may be sufficient protection from elements for livestock
  • In larger snow storms and longer duration storms, landscape topographic features such as ravines, canyons, draws, and windbreaks may become inundated by snow and trap livestock.
  • Young/smaller animals are at greater risk of becoming buried by snow.
  • Young/smaller animals are more at risk to cold temperatures.
  • Shelters, sheds, or windbreaks are necessary to protect livestock from winter storms.
  • Cold temperatures without wind are usually not enough to affect the performance of animals receiving full feed.
  • Wind alone can cause the same effect on animals as exposure to a sudden drop in temperature.
  • A 20 mph wind is roughly equivalent to a 30° F drop in temperature.
  • Under extreme winter storm conditions, simple shelters alone will not be 100% effective in protecting livestock.
  • Always plan on snow being accompanied by wind when planning your livestock protective areas.
  • Windbreaks that are taller and more dense (have less openings) are more effective than other types of windbreaks. Windbreaks can be manmade or natural (trees).
  • Trees that have no leaves during winter are relatively ineffective windbreaks. Evergreen trees such as fir, pine, and juniper are much effective types of trees for windbreaks.
  • Snow fences can be a good compromise or substitute for tree windbreaks in some situations. They can also be used in addition to solid fences or tree windbreaks.
  • If a porous fence is used, 80% density will offer effective wind protection.
  • Plan and know where snow will drift under different wind conditions so that you can make appropriate plans of how to clear gates, shelter openings, barn doors, and roads when snow begins to accumulate.
  • Low ceiling sheds with an open front often provide excellent shelters for livestock. Open front sheds should have slot openings located along the eaves of the back of the shelter. Slot openings will allow enough ventilation and airflow through the shed to prevent snow from swirling and accumulating in abundance in front of the shed. Slot size along the eave should be 1-2 inches in size for every 10 feet of building width. Ridge vents are recommended.
  • Do not attach windbreak fences directly to the front corner of an open-front shed. Attach a separate short fence to the building. Start the longer fence behind the short fence and shed to keep the snow away from the building.
  • If making a long open-front shed, divide them into 20 to 40 feet sections with divider walls to reduce drafts and possible snow buildups.
  • Locate shelters so that adjacent buildings, trees, or topography will not deflect wind and snow into or in front of the shed.
  • Indoor shelters that are tightly closed may cause a lack of oxygen for livestock, resulting in suffocation.
  • Some shed-type shelters may overcrowd and overheat livestock, causing or exacerbating respiratory disorders.
  • Having abundant and accessible feed will help animals maintain body temperature and survive cold temperatures.
  • Livestock need extra feed in severe and prolonged cold weather in order to keep up body heat and maintain body condition.
  • As wind and the wind chill factor increases, abundant feed alone will not be enough to keep animals warm.
  • Make sure stored winter feed is of good nutrient quality for the type of livestock you are feeding.
  • Make sure you have enough stored winter feed to meet the demands of your livestock for the winter, with plenty to last you in case of prolonged winter storms.
  • If a storm lasts for more than 2 days, emergency feeding methods may be required. Pelleted cake or cake concentrates are examples of emergency feeds.
  • Be prepared if cold weather or power outages cause mechanized feeders to become inoperable.
  • Regularly check water tanks.
  • Make sure water is clean, free of ice, and in adequate supply.
  • Make sure you have portable watering equipment or a way to maintain water for your livestock in case of extreme cold and ice.
  • If feasible, use heaters in water tanks to provide livestock with adequate water.
Extra Care
  • Make sure your insurance policies adequately protect you in case you suffer losses due to extreme winter weather.
  • Make sure you have tools, rope, blankets, lights, and a portable generator with extension cords and fuel ready to use in case of emergency.
  • Make sure tractors and vehicles are maintained and protected so that they will be ready to use in extreme cold weather and snow/ice.
  • Make sure you have bedding available to be deployed so that you can create a warm and protected place to keep livestock off ice and mud so that they can stay dry.
  • Care for young animals first, since they are more vulnerable than larger animals.
  • Livestock will often move away from the force of an oncoming storm, unless they are moving toward shelter that is well known to them.
  • Older animals may follow or try to stay near young animals that are being moved or treated, due to herd and/or maternal instinct.
  • Extreme conditions during blizzards can cause both livestock and humans to become panicked or confused.
  • Animal survival instincts may affect your ability to herd or move livestock during extreme conditions.
  • Livestock may avoid traveling directly into the force of an oncoming storm (wind, snow, sleet, etc…).
  • Livestock are likely to avoid areas or begin to panic where they have poor footing.
  • Livestock may resist or be hesitant to leave even limited shelter behind during storm conditions.
  • Make sure animals are in good body condition and vaccinated. Livestock that are larger and in good body condition can handle winter weather and extreme conditions better than smaller or weaker animals.
If you have questions about how to care for you livestock in severe winter weather or how to prepare, contact your local Extension office. More information can be found at

Information Sources:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2015 Tri-State Cow/Calf Symposium 
Strategies for Success

By Chris Shelley, CSU Extension Livestock Agent 

Start the New Year off on the right foot by planning to attend the 2015 Tri-State Cow/Calf Symposium. Strategies for Success will be the focus of the symposium, which is to be held in Yuma Colorado on January 7, 2015. This meeting is a collaboration between Colorado State University, Kansas State University, University of Nebraska Lincoln, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The event is only held every other year but is designed to provide timely resources for beef producers.

Registration and a chance to view the exhibitors will start at 9:00 a.m. MST at the Yuma County Fairgrounds. The program will then begin at 10:00 a.m. and proceed until 3:30 p.m. Those in attendance will also have other opportunities to visit the exhibitors during the meeting.

The meeting will commence with a presentation about “Rainfall Predictions and Forage Production” by KSU Research and Extension Range Scientist, Dr. Keith Harmoney. Following his remarks will be Dr. Jason Ahola, Beef Production Systems Associate Professor from CSU, with “Assuring consumers about animal welfare – the beef industry’s response”. The morning session will conclude with information on “Avoiding Cattle Theft” by Yuma County Sheriff’s Deputy, CJ Fell.

The afternoon will pick up with more research-based information from university specialists. Marshall Frasier, CSU Agricultural and Resource Economics Professor, will address the topic of “Money Management and Taxes”. UNL Feedlot Production Management Veterinarian and Professor, Dr. Dee Griffin, will update attendees on the “Veterinary Feed Directive”. To conclude the meeting, “Economics of Rebuilding the Cowherd” will be discussed by Randy Saner, UNL Extension Educator.

The registration cost is $25 per person, $40 for couples, and $10 for students if registration is completed on or before January 2, 2015. Coffee, doughnuts, lunch, and a proceedings booklet will all be included with the registration fee. Booth spaces are available as well.

To register or learn more about the meeting contact Chris Shelley, CSU livestock agent, at 970-332-4151 or visit CSU Extension’s Golden Plains Area website at to register online.