Prolonged cold has some strange effects on both us and the cows-a little like heat stress in reverse. And cows don’t adjust immediately when the weather gets a little warmer, either. Now that the cold is over (I’m hopeful!), we can talk about what to expect from a cold weather hangover.

Cold weather hangovers can last as long as six weeks after the extreme cold has left-here are some of the problems associated with cold and how to get back on track.

1. Reproductive problems and/or cystic cows

A cow does best in a thermal neutral zone of 40-75 degrees. In temperatures below zero, her energy needs rise by over 40%. Typically, she’ll increase her dry matter intake by 10% to compensate-but that only lasts so long. Something gives. Usually it is reproductive performance.

The best recovery after cold-induced energy loss affecting breeding is to put the cows on a higher energy, more digestible diet. For example, feeding more corn silage instead of haylage. After feeding your most digestible feed for recovery, try adding some protected fat to speed up recovery further.

2. Poor muscle tone

Even if the cows are in a free stall-or let out during the day from a tie stall-the cows limit their movement in cold temperatures. Their are two reasons for this: first, they can conserve energy and second, their footing isn’t as sure in icy conditions and frozen manure. Poor muscle tone can lead to mobility issues, especially in mature cows. More common than that, however, is twisted stomachs. Poor muscle tone is a big culprit in DAs in the spring-especially after prolonged cold in the winter.
Recovery can be slow. Make sure the ration is balanced well for amino acids-the building blocks of muscle-and dry cow diets contain plenty of high uNDF feeds (lots of long or long cut hay or chopped straw).

3. Cold weather ketosis

Springing heifers are especially susceptible to ketosis upon freshening, after prolonged cold in the winter. Heifers can only eat so much to maintain heat, grow, and build a calf. Heifers will start to mobilize too much fat just prior to freshening. This usually results in ketosis at freshening.

Not that you know this happens, making ketosis treatment part of your post fresh protocol can prevent full blown problems.

4. Hoof problems

There are mainly two types of hoof problems that occur after a long cold stretch. First, the hooves can become bruised from walking on frozen manure. This bruising can then develop into abscesses.
The second type is when the lack of energy reduces the fat pad at the base of the hoof. The reduction of the fat pad causes the cow pain as she walks (think bone on bone in a knee injury in people).

Recovery takes a foot bath and some calories. A foot bath to try and prevent infection, and calories and time to regain the fat pad.