In many parts of the U.S., the temperatures are dropping and the days are getting shorter, which means it’s time to start planning for the winter months to come.
Managing your dairy during cold months requires a different set of standard operating procedures (SOPs). A good winter management strategy strives for optimal udder health, which means keeping cows’ teat skin conditioned, and aims to protect your calves from the cold. It is always good to revisit your plans and make adjustments where needed. That could mean retraining staff on your wintertime SOPs, which should be visible for all to see. If you need to rework your winter plan, utilize the support of experts, like your nutritionist, veterinarian, and dairy equipment dealer as well as the university extension specialists in your area.
Teat Dipping Procedures
During winter, it is important to still follow your current milking routine as well as apply a pre- and post-teat dip. In colder months, you may need to change to a teat dip with higher levels of skin conditioners. Depending on the weather conditions, this might mean switching to a winter dip with 20 percent or higher emollient levels. The additional emollient in the teat dip will help reduce excessive teat skin drying, which can lead to cracks and chapping. Winter dips dry quickly to reduce the potential of freezing. Dry and cracked teat skin makes a favorable environment for bacteria to grow and can lead to mastitis infections; it can also be uncomfortable and reduce the efficiency of your milking routine. Learn more about Protecting Teat Health during Winter Months.
Caring for Calves
Calves forced to use more energy to regulate their body temperature in cold conditions may suffer from decreased growth performance, increased risk of diseases due to suppressed immune function, and poor response to treatment. To help young calves to cope with the harsh weather winter months, it is important to ensure good nutrition, provide housing with adequate air exchange, and use calf coats to provide extra insulation from cold weather.
Be sure to check your calf coat inventory every fall. Are they clean and ready to go? Do you need more? When choosing a calf coat, you want to make sure it is washable, and find a design that has layers for water repellency and insulation. The calf coat should also be breathable. Many of the options today include small and large sizes and removable or adjustable straps.
Not only is it important for you to have a plan to keep your cows and calves prepared for the winter months, but your employees need proper gear as well. This might include insulated boots, jackets and coveralls. Keeping your employees dry is also important which milking aprons and sleeves can help with.
The winter months can be productive—and enjoyable—with the right planning and preparation.