Cheese Lovers Newsletter (10.18.2020): Does it get too cold for cows?
Happy Cold Snap, Minnesota Cheese Lovers:
Brrrr… the temperature really took a turn downward and we still are getting cheese made and flipped while the cows are milked, bed and fed every single day of the year. For more on that, read our question of the week below.
What’s new in cheese and meat? – MARGIE IS BACK
If you’ve been looking for our Cave-Aged Margie Cheddar, she’s back. And we really like this batch.
Our hamburger patties and ground beef are still tasting excellent made for your winter and holiday dishes. Stock up now, we don’t have another harvest planned at our butcher at the moment.
Question of the Week: Does it get too cold for cows?
Here’s another great question related to our cold snap. The easy answer is yes – like any animal it can be too cold to allow proper body function. For us humans, it is variable as to the dangerous temperature, but with our bodies being so water-based obviously 32 F is the magic number when you need to take breaks via science, but some people in poor health conditions could get sick or worse at higher temperatures.
But cows have a nice coat of hair, so they get a little grace. Dairy cattle are like marathon runners – optimal nutrition with a workout, or in their case making milk, growing a baby calf in utero and maintaining normal health. They like it a little cooler due to the hair coat and the marathon workout, with heat stress often kicking in at 68 F. But with evaporative cooling we can help keep them cool as possible, and some farms have installed sprinklers to soak their hair. July and August are typically our most difficult months when it cows to cows adapting to weather – too much heat and humidity.
This question is about the cold, however. Dairy cows prefer 40 to 50 degrees, but with a dry winter coat of hair they don’t see much difference down to 18 F assuming they have a dry heavy winter coat of hair. Below roughly 18 F, if we keep cows dry, they’ll need another pound of feed for every 2 degree drop.
We can keep our barn pretty warm in the winter when we roll up the curtains and turn off the fans. It is a struggle to do chores on the coldest days for the humans and equipment, but the cows do quite well if we do our job of keeping them warm and putting enough feed in front of them. Cows are about 101.5 degrees internal body temperature, so with 190 of them at about 1,800 pounds in an enclosed barn they do some self-heating of the barn.
Cows will live through the winter in parts of Siberia and other very cold places. Although not ideal, they can handle short stints in very low temperatures. Combine it with wet snow falling and that’s when they get into trouble.
Alise, Lucas, Linda and Jerry