Cattle, Cold Weather, and Energy Demands

Cold weather has struck the Southeast for the next several days with the most recent weather pattern change bringing arctic-like air to the region. During periods of cold weather, remember the following important reminders to help cattle weather the storm:

  1. Cold weather can increase intake of cattle up to 30% because of increased maintenance energy requirements. In other words, cattle are trying to stay warm, which requires increased amounts of energy in their diet to do so.
  2. Cows may not be able to consume enough energy to account for their changing needs, especially if low quality forages are part of the diet (less than 52% TDN and 7% CP). Offering cattle more low-quality forage will not meet energy demands – cattle cannot physically consume enough of this forage because of the high fiber content and “gut fill factor” that occurs during the digestion process. Cattle feel full when consuming fibrous, over-mature forage, which reduces their intake potential. Avoid supplemental feed products designed to improve intake of low-quality forage to decrease potential animal health and digestive tract compaction risks during cold weather.
  3. Provide higher quality forage during periods of cold weather and a daily energy supplement (example: up to 0.5% of animal body weight per day of a digestible fiber-based supplement like soybean hulls) to help meet increased demands.
  4. Feed cattle in the late afternoon or early evening. This can help cattle better maintain their body temperature as ambient temperatures begin to drop from heat produced during the digestion process.

For additional information on cattle energy demands during cold weather, visit


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