A blanket of snow covered my black and red Scottish Highlanders turning them white. When it snows you might ask, “Why don’t you bring your cows inside, where it’s warm.” I don’t because cow hair acts like roofing, keeping heat in.
Cattle ‘insulation’ is similar to house insulation. If a house roof is snow covered, the insulation is working. Snow piled on the back of cow means that the heat from the cow is not escaping to melt the snow. Some of my cattle are Scottish Highlanders with long shaggy, lanolin coats. The long hair insulates them and the lanolin creates a natural ‘raincoat’ causing snow and rain to run off before it penetrates to their skin. Even the Angus-cross cattle have coats and insulating fat that works the same way.
A bitter wind is more challenging than snow for cows. Cows use natural cover like trees or hills avoid 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 older cattle would rather be in the field.
Snow-covered cows might look miserable but they’re not. A cow blanketed with snow is a warm cow. Don’t worry about snow-insulated cattle. With plenty of hay and adequate water, cattle manage just fine in Winter.
Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, NH, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at email@example.com.