Silver wrote: Faster horses wrote:
Brad S wrote:Colorado state did a study showing cattle can survive on snow, but I've never roughed cows that hard.
"Survive" being THE word. They won't die, necessarily, but from what we have observed, it certainly can shorten their productive life span. And also, again, all snow is not created equal.
Snow in SE Montana is usually very dry.......like sand........not much moisture in it.
I have to say that that has to be pure nonsense. I don't believe 5 gallons of snow in Montana or Nebraska weighs significantly less than 5 gallons of snow in British Columbia. I also don't believe that the recipe for water is different in these places. I do know for a fact that cows do absolutely fine wintering on snow here, so I don't see why it would be different elsewhere. I would wager that cows tend to stay in the herd at least as long in these parts as anywhere else even wintering only on snow as a water source.
I don't want to get in a peeing match here over snow. I related us experiencing a deal where the cattle had snow and not much else for water. The owners of the ranch told us to watch the tails. When the hair on the tails parted down the middle of the tail, the cattle weren't doing good. We observed. It happened. And it happened where the cattle weren't getting enough water. Have you been to SE Montana and North Central Wyoming when it snows? I'm telling you, MOST of the time, there is very little water in that snow. I have been to Canada and know about your snow. With ours, you can melt a bucket full and barely get any moisture in the bottom of the bucket. That place where we were had a lot of open cows in the fall. They turned over a lot of cattle. When cattle are shorted on nutrients, and water is the first nutrient, something has to go. And it's usually reproduction first, then calf weaning weights. In this particular place, we didn't feed hay; it was cake and grass outfit. If you feed hay and cattle have to depend on snow--dry snow........that's even worse. But to each his own.
Ranchers here spend a lot of money on pipelines and insulated tanks in order for their cattle to have water in winter.
Anyway, Silver. we can agree to disagree. I can concede that in some areas in the states, there is more water in the snow than where we have lived.
Here is something interesting:http://www.hereford.org/static/files/10 ... rWater.pdf
Here is a test done in Canada that supports cows wintering on snow.https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/lives ... b05s21.pdf
They found no difference in cows that eat snow vs cows that have open water. However, they did qualify their findings:
Careful management of snow fed cows is essential to
prevent this potential labour and money saving management
practice from becoming an animal welfare issue. Consider
the following points:
• Snow as the only water source is not recommended for
lactating cows, those in poor body condition (BCS<3),
cows on less than optimum feeding programs or for those
who are sick or unhealthy.
• An alternate water source must be in place and
immediately available in case snow conditions change
and cows cannot maintain sufficient snow intake.
• Snow must be clean and easily accessible. The University
of Alberta study (1980) showed cattle preferred clean
snow that they could easily pick up using a circular
scooping motion of the tongue, a similar motion to that
used when grazing.
• Ice-crusted, wind-blown or trampled snow sources are
not considered adequate. It may be necessary to break
through ice-covered snow with a tractor or some other
means to allow cows access. Providing traction (straw,
old hay, sand) on icy surfaces is recommended to prevent
• Carefully evaluate the snowfall in your area. It takes
about 10 centimetres of snow to get one centimetre of
water. Not all areas are well suited to this management
practice. Consider the amount of snowfall and openness
of fields – wide-open spaces with little or no wind
protection will result in wind-blown snow which is not
easily accessible to cows.
• Use feed intake to assess whether cattle are receiving
enough water from snow. Feed intake for a mature cow
should be between two and 2.5 per cent of body weight
(BW) and should be consistent from day to day. A drop
in feed consumption could indicate insufficient water
• Cows in pens or confined to small fields may not have a
sufficient supply of snow to act as a water source.
• Ensure cows receive a well-balanced ration that provides
all the energy, protein, minerals and vitamins they
require. Cows fed poorly digestible rations will be prone
to rumen compaction, regardless of water source.
• Discuss the ins and outs with someone who has
experience with snow feeding. Be well informed.
Behaviour Changes When
Snow is the Sole Water Source
• Eating snow is a learned behaviour. It can take four to five
days for all cows to become snow eaters. In the meantime,
be prepared for restlessness and bellowing. Novice snow
eaters will adapt faster if they are with animals who have
become accustomed to snow.
• If bellowing and restlessness persist after four to five
days, investigate. The cows are trying to tell you
something is not right.
• Some changes in feeding and drinking patterns have
been noted when cattle are not given access to water.
The authors of the University of Alberta study outlined
here observed that calves ate their daily feed at a slower
rate than calves with access to water. They tended to eat
more frequently throughout the day and alternated feeding
and snow intake. Animals provided with water tended to
drink only once or twice a day. Alternating feed and snow
consumption may help minimize thermal stress.
• Research shows that snow can be the sole source of water
for cattle without affecting performance negatively.
• Maintaining the health and welfare of snow fed cattle
should be a top priority.
• It is essential that snow be available in sufficient quantity
and in a form that is easily accessible by cattle.
• Management practices must be in place to ensure good
nutrition at all times. A backup watering plan is also
essential to deal with the scenario of snow becoming
unavailable at any time throughout the winter.
Canadian Council on Animal Care. 1993. Guide to the care
and use of experimental animals. Vol. 1. CCAC, Ottawa, ON.
The Animal Care Act – http://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/