NDSU Beef Cattle Research Complex Taking Care of Livestock in Frigid Temps

the complex has 108 steers and bulls combined

FARGO, N.D. — While people are fortunate enough to get out of the elements, that’s not the case for livestock.

NDSU’s Beef Cattle Research Complex opened in May 2011.

Since then, it’s been a home to all of these cows and although cattle are meant to be outside, animal research specialists say they still need a little extra TLC during cold periods of the year such as this week.

“Making sure that we’re bedding properly twice a week, keeping that bedding pack underneath the animals is very helpful. Obviously feed and water is very important,” said Trent Gilbery, NDSU animal care specialist.

As the cows feed, they create extra body heat to keep them warm.

They’re also eating three percent of their body weight, meaning if one cow weighs 1,000 pounds, they’re consuming 30 pounds of feed a day.

But survival for these steers and bulls also depends on the research center’s ability to provide a barrier from the wind.

“We have a facility here that’s open to the south. Wind protection on three sides. Obviously, this part of the country and being from the northwest, that’s going to give our animals protection from of the most severe weather which is what we saw this week,” Gilbery said.

And just as a person must adjust their lifestyle to the winter every year, so do these cattle.

“They kind of conserve their energy so they’re less active out in the pens. They tend to huddle together a little bit more, spend most of their energy going to the feeder and the water croff,” Gilbery said.

Negative temps aren’t always such a bad thing though. It actually helps these bulls to argue less.

“Bulls being bulls, they’ll get to fighting and they try to work out their pecking order and you don’t see any of that activity when it’s really cold. They’re just again trying to conserve their energy as much as possible,” Gilbery said.

While animal specialists and farmers across Minnesota and North Dakota provide that care to their livestock, they also must remember to of course, take care of themselves and conserve their energy.

“We’re fortunate that we have places we can go to get out of the weather when we’re caring for them but it is kind of a stressful and labor intensive issue dealing with the weather,” Gilbery said.

The Beef Cattle Center has been done 22 research projects since its inception.

Animal specialists are studying at how a cow’s meat quality and growth is affected by anabolic steroids.

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