6 things to think about if outwintering your herd this winter

6 things to think about if outwintering your herd this winter

Outwintering beef cattle can be a cost-effective and efficient way to manage your herd while reducing the need for expensive housing and feeding during winter months. However, successful outwintering requires careful planning and consideration of various factors to ensure the welfare and productivity of the animals is maintained. In this article, we will discuss some essential tips for effectively outwintering your beef herd. 

Appropriate Grazing and Shelter

Choosing the right grazing fields for outwintering is crucial. Consider the pasture quality, accessibility to water sources, and suitability of sheltered areas.

A well-drained field with ample grass cover, access to clean water, and natural windbreaks like hedges or tree lines can provide suitable conditions for cattle during winter.

If you plan to use fields with little or no shelter, consider building an artificial windbreak. 

Fencing & Infrastructure

No one enjoys the phone call that your cattle are in someone’s garden – especially in the winter!

Check and maintain gateways, water troughs, and any other infrastructure to ensure functionality throughout the winter period. Your feeding site (inevitably you might have to supplement with silage / hay) should be on high ground with good drainage and accessible to farm vehicles.

Adequate Nutrition

During winter, grazing alone may not provide sufficient nutrition.

Test the quality of available forage to determine its nutritional value and supplement it accordingly. Offering additional feed, such as haylage or silage, can help meet their energy requirements.

Consult with a nutritionist or your vet to determine the right balance of forage and supplemental feed for your cattle's needs. 

Water Supply

A consistent supply of clean water is essential. Ensure that water troughs are regularly checked and maintained to prevent freezing.

Ahead of cold weather, some people keep inflatable balls in the trough to prevent freezing over. Remove the ball and cattle have access to water. 

Health & Veterinary Care

Regular monitoring of cattle health is vital during the outwintering period. Check the body condition score of the animals to ensure they are maintaining appropriate weight – coats can make this much harder during winter.

Be vigilant for signs of illness or injury and seek vet advice promptly if needed.  

Herd Size & Stocking Density

Maintain an appropriate herd size and stocking density based on the available grazing and shelter resources. Overcrowding can lead to increased competition for feed and shelter, impacting the welfare and productivity of the animals.

Consider rotational grazing or strip grazing to manage pasture effectively. 

Outwintering beef cattle can be a viable and economical option if done correctly. By following these top tips, you can ensure the welfare and productivity of your cattle during the winter months.

Proper grazing and shelter, adequate nutrition, access to clean water, and regular veterinary care are essential elements of a successful outwintering strategy.

Remember to monitor your herd closely, adapt as needed, and consult with your vet for guidance when necessary. 


1st September 2023

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