Keeping Cows Warm and Healthy in the Winter

Man has the weather been crazy here! Five days ago we had negative wind chills. Then it was a balmy 35 degrees. The next day it was raining and now yesterday it was snowing. YUCK!

So how do we keep everyone warm and dry? I am talking animals, because us farmers are out of luck and have to endure whatever nature throws at us. First, we make animal care our number one priority.

All our youngest calves are tucked in safe and warm in their individual hutches. These domes are bedded with straw and stay quite warm. The domes have vents on the top to that we can control when it is warmer out or shut when it is cold. On really windy, cold snowy days we will place bales in front of the hutches to prevent snow from blowing in.

Calf warm in her hutch

Our next oldest group (4-8 week olds) are in what we call an EZ hutch. These group housing areas are also bedded with straw. Three to four animals share a hutch, so the calves can snuggle together. The next oldest group (8 weeks until cow) are housed in an open front shed that is also bedded with straw.

Our milk cows get their “beach.” This is our sand bedded free stall building. Free stall means that they get to choose which stall they want to lay in. Our cows have access to an outside pasture area and the beach equally. On nice days you will find them all outside, on crummy days they will relaxing in the beach, using their natural body heat to warm the building up.

#200 enjoying her "beach"

The key in all the groups is to keep the bedding dry. We bed often (usually every 2-3 days for straw areas and daily for sand bedding) and keep areas clear of manure pile up. Cattle are able to maintain a healthy body temperature at cold temperatures. Their bodies are designed to handle the outdoor elements. Those animals that are feeling under the weather or are about to calve, will be kept in the barn in either a straw bedded area or given the chance to use sand bedded stalls.

Besides keeping our animals bedded properly, we must give them plenty of healthy food and keep their water free of ice. Our animals are fed more hay when the temperatures drop, because they are burning more calories to stay warm. It is not until the temps dip below zero or if there is a strong wind, will we start to worry. Our biggest concern with our milk cows is keeping frost bite off the udders. We apply a protective cream after each milking if frost bite is a concern.

Keeping our animals comfortable and healthy is our number one concern. As for the farmers, we do the best we can in our winter gear. Layers is the name of the game.

What are some fun ways you keep your family warm and healthy in the winter?


Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more,

5 thoughts on “Keeping Cows Warm and Healthy in the Winter

  1. Katie

    This is great insight Emily. I don’t think people often realize how much farmers do to care for their animals year round and especially during harsh winter months!

  2. Jessica

    I just stumbled upon this when I was searching for ways to keep cows warm. I love how much dedication farmers have for their animals. It’s wonderful. I have a 21 year old retired jersey dairy cow I’ve had since she was a baby. Have you ever seen blankets for cattle? It sure can get cold for the old gal. Her daughters fair well, but they aren’t as old as her.

    1. zweberfarms Post author

      Congratulations on your 21 year old dairy cow. WOW! She is some wise old lady. I wondering if a blanket for a draft horse would fit?

  3. gloria rady

    I have an 17 years old Jersey steer. His legs are not good. He has a individual stall barn. He is on Banimine for pain and swelling. I am afraid that this winter will be his last. He is kept on deep clean hay and a thick rubber mat. He has Dutch doors on his barn but we only close both doors when it is very cold. He needs fresh air for breathing. He has been on a special diet for more than a year. We start adding to it before it gets cold. He gets extra rolled corn, grain oil for horses, apples, a huge 80# mineral vitamin tub and beet pulp, All Stock fed, water. He is cleaned twice a day. I don’t think a horse blanket would work for he lays down in his manure. I think it would help his arthritis but I think he would not like wearing it. I don’t know how I can heat him with out him damaging a heat source or burning the small barn down. He was able to eat grass all this year and he eats little hay.. now during the last two winters This is why we had to change his diet because of weight loss. Certainly you see I am not a farmer and the cost is expensive. I will not let him leave while still alive. I will have to have the vet put him down and have him taken to the local landfill. Can you suggest any way to keep his old bones warm? He is a pet. I just like Jerseys. Thanks, Gloria