Winter can be the most expensive time to own a cow in the Midwest. As the season changes, five of our staff who also raise beef and dairy cows gathered to share the ways that they’ve found to reduce the cost (and labor) of wintering cattle on their unique operations. All five live in different parts of Minnesota and run pasture-based farms, some raising organic dairy, some grass-fed or grass-finished beef.
While there’s no one-size fits all management style to wintering livestock, the team discusses a variety of practices that have worked for them, including bale grazing, stockpiling perennial pasture to extend the grazing season, and the timing of calving. They’ve also found benefits extending beyond the cost savings of quality winter feed: Doug Voss finds that by bale grazing, he also saves on labor and improves the health of his herd. And farmers certainly don’t need to outwinter their cattle 100% of the time to start seeing the benefits–just making a few changes can show cost savings, a boost to herd health, and improvements in soil biology.