The frigid weather we're experiencing can create feed challenges for livestock producers.

We got some tips from Melissa Atchison, vice-president of Manitoba Beef Producers.

"Certainly in colder temperatures, cows are subjected to much higher energy needs," she commented. "Anything below their comfort zone, which in beef cows here is about minus 15 to minus 20. For every drop in five degrees Celsius below minus 20, they need a pound of grain, is a good rule of thumb, or some type of energy supplementation."

Atchison says last year's drought can also complicate the situation.

"There are just some concerns about using novel feeds and I know there's a lot of straw being fed and different, maybe perhaps greenfeeds, stale canola crop perhaps. There are some mineral things that we need to keep an eye on. The best insurance policy is to have your feed tested and then after it's analyzed, have it put through a ration by a qualified professional"

She had further advice for producers.

"I think the things that we really need to watch in a really cold snap are certainly the increased rate of passage. Cows start eating a higher volume of feed, because it passes through them quicker, but then that reduces the digestibility of that feed. We've got to make sure that we're giving them some type of concentrated energy source. Separating animals into feeding groups is really important. Your healthy, mature, fat cows and then perhaps your first and second calvers and your thin and older cows. Having a good body fat store going into the feeding period is critical, so we really need to keep an eye on body conditions, where we're more winter feeding. Really critical in this cold weather is having windbreak or some type of shelter to stop the wind. Cows can stand some pretty cold temperatures but that wind really drops the effective temperature and can have some detrimental effects."

Atchison also stressed the importance of water availability.

"Water availability is critical. Cows need to be able to drink enough water. As soon as their water consumption goes down, their feed consumption goes down and that feeds into that loop of not getting enough energy. Very important to have water available. If your cows are licking snow, that's not a problem. It's just not recommended for weened calves. Not recommended for lactating cows. They need to be taught how to do it. They don't innately know how. The snow conditions have to be appropriate. It has to be loose and not crystalized over. If you are feeding snow to cows as your water source, you need to keep a pretty close eye on them."

Atchison reminds producers to have rations balanced appropriately, keep a really close eye on your cows in this weather and stay warm!