WONDERING ABOUT OUTWINTERING?

Published 13th April 2016
Sustainable farming practices

One method of raising beef cattle that has increased its popularity these days is outwintering.

Outwintering is a practice of keeping livestock outdoors for some or all of the winter. All kinds of livestock such as cows and heifers can be outwintered. Many farmers believe outwintering keeps their stock healthier and more comfortable than they would be in a confined setting.

There are several apparent benefits of the outwintering method. The high costs of buildings may be avoided, some diseases associated with close confinement and poor ventilation may also be avoided, animals are generally cleaner, bedding costs are reduced, feeding may be simplified, and herd size may be adjusted easily, among others. However, a herd manager must also be prepared to respond to unexpected conditions quickly. 

Despite the possible benefits, the outwintering method also presents a lot of potential damages. These concerns have been quite controversial in the farming community and have to be very carefully understood as they involve cattle welfare during severe weather and unsuitable field conditions.


 

According to the study of the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) in the UK, Outwintering really only applies to adult beef cows calving in the spring.  Young calves and store cattle should only be out-wintered if they are in areas, which have reliably mild winter weather conditions. 

For cattle to be out-wintered successfully on any system then their welfare and prevailing environmental conditions must be considered.  The key need is shelter. This can be artificial such as an open fronted shed or a high solid wall or natural, such as a wood or copse. Forage supplied to outwintering cows should be placed on a relatively high piece of ground, which drains well and which has a solid base. The feeding site must also be readily accessible to farm vehicles.  Cattle standing knee deep in mud waiting for their forage is not acceptable. 

Potential disadvantages include: 

  1. Reduced housing – may lead to reduced build-up of infection.

The important neonatal diseases, such as viral causes of diarrhea, can be largely prevented by vaccination of the dam and good colostrum management.  Build-up of infection can be reduced by mucking out the cattle accommodation before calving and due attention to the calving boxes/accommodation. 

  1. Access to fields during adverse weather

The severe winter weather for several weeks/months presented many problems to farmers with cattle out-wintered away from the big bale stores.

  1. Poaching around restricted feed areas/ring feeders

Feed poaching around restricted feed areas/ring feeders can become a major problem with restricted grazing areas and no hard standings around ring feeders. 

  1. Excess loss of body condition if stock density too high in late autumn/early winter

Loss of body condition may not be readily noticed as beef cows grow their coat in late autumn/winter and it proves very difficult, if not impossible, to restore body condition during late gestation.

  1. Increased risk of liver fluke from extended grazing period

There is an increased risk of liver fluke from the extended grazing period with infective stages still present on pasture until December in mild winters.  This may necessitate prophylactic treatment when the cattle are outwintered which may prove time-consuming.  A further treatment will likely prove necessary in January/February after housing.

  1. Advanced pregnancy

Advanced pregnancy/twins in out-wintered cows may present problems with gaining access to feed rings when cows are kept in fields unsuitable for that purpose.

Conclusion: Outwintering can be a successful system – but it is not a low management system. It needs proper planning and preparation for most eventualities. Animal welfare needs to be the key priority and plans need to be in place to identify and provide solutions for problems arising in out-wintered cattle.


 

THE HUSTLER WAY

With HUSTLER’S FEEDING SYSTEM, Outwintering2 is now possible! It will basically allow you to experience the advantages of Outwintering minus the risks and possible hazards for your livestock. Talk about having BEST OF BOTH WORLDS! 

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The Hustler Bale feeding system is simpler and faster than many realise. Bales can be spread out enough for a complete herd within two to three minutes for each bale. Plus there is no time required to shift hay rings, repair pasture, clean up mud, and even manure, if you feed in a different spot every day. This certainly reduces the health risks for cattle and dramatically cuts down labor time especially during winter when the surroundings are more difficult to work with.

With the Hustler system, a rancher can monitor and define how much feed will be distributed. Thus, only enough for the day is fed, providing a consistent daily nutrition while reducing wastage and eliminating other animal and environmental risks. During winter, feeding can be scehduled more efficiently, exposing your cattle to the harsh weather conditions only for a short amount of time.

Contrary to the belief that Hustler equipment is a expensive option because of the higher initial capital outlay than traditional ring feeders, purchasing an efficient feeding system is more economical when taking into account the short and long term losses without a Hustler. Ranchers and farmers who invest in Hustler’s unique feeding system are experiencing payback in the first 6-9 months, with the savings lining your pockets every season thereafter. 

No need to risk your livestock by Outwintering! You can get the benefits of Outwintering by using Hustler’s feeding system during the winter season! With Hustler’s solution, it is definitely a win-win situation.

 

Get your own Hustler before the next season!