From Our Farm to Your Table

Snow Covered Cows

Wed, 2018-02-07 20:40 -- Carole Soule
Snow Covered Cow

The snow-covered cattle are quiet, chewing their cuds, waiting for their farmer (me) to deliver them lunch.  

“Why don't you bring your cows inside, where it is warm?” you might ask. Some of my cattle are Scottish Highlanders that have long shaggy, lanolin coats. The long hair insulates them and the lanolin creates a natural “rain coat” causing snow and rain to run off before it penetrates to their skin. Even the Angus cross cattle have long coats and insulating fat that works the same way.

Cattle “insulation” is similar to house insulation. If a house roof is snow covered, the insulation is working. Good insulation keeps heat in the house. Same with cows. Snow piled on the back of cow means that the heat from the cow is not escaping to melt the snow.

Bitter wind is more challenging than snow for cattle. Cows use natural wind breaks like trees or hills to get out of the wind. Younger cattle are not as well prepared to deal with cold as the older cattle so we make sure they have access to shelter. Given the choice, all of my cattle would rather be in the field choosing their own places to stay out of the wind.

Snow covered cows might look miserable but they're not. A cow covered with a blanket of snow is a warm cow. Their hair insulates and keeps body heat in, preventing the snow blanket from melting. When the cow moves, snow slides off just like it slides off a roof. Cow hair acts like roofing, keeping heat in.

Don't worry about snow insulated cattle. With plenty of hay and adequate water the cattle laugh at the cold.

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