Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
January 7, 1999

Watch Out For Thin Ice

This topic can relate to numerous situations. From the economic point of view swine producers feel they have been on very thin ice and much of it has broken through with them. Last fall I continually heard the comment about prices being lower for feeder cattle than was needed to cover the annual expenses for many cattle producers. This was evident for many beef enterprises when we saw additional cattle being culled to meet the financial needs.

However, this article will be focused on the water supply. Many of us still water cattle from farm ponds. Frequently we get involved with other farm or ranch duties and fail to get the ice cut at the appropriate time or when the cattle decide it is time for them to get their daily intake of water. Many feel, either from listening to the wind chill index or the amount of time their furnace has run, that we have had considerably cold weather. This may be true, but the snow pack on many of the ponds has provided a layer of insulation. This layer of insulation has prevented the cold from penetrating the ice and reduces the depth of the ice. Also ice which has a snow cover oftentimes deteriorates with time and becomes less supportive of weight.

Another factor of concern is the snow accumulation on ice provides is a surface that is less slick. This improves the footing for livestock and lets the animals move about or stand on the ice with ease. Invariably when one gets on the ice others follow and additional weight increases the potential for ice breakage.

Regardless of the circumstances a dry beef cow will strive for a daily intake of fresh water at the rate of approximately six gallons per head per day. Post calving the cows will consume approximately eight gallons of fresh water per head per day.

Keep stray electricity in mind at all times. Freezing causes heaving and often times reduces the grounding effect of electrically heated waterers. Watch for signs of animals changing their watering habits either by their approach to the watering system or the way they consume water.

It is a very disheartening feeling to look over the hill and see cattle that have broken through the ice and are struggling to get to shore or have already been in the cold water too long and have succumbed to the environmental circumstances. Let's try to eliminate this dreaded circumstance and make it till spring with the entire group of cattle we started with into the fall of 1998.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - January 7, 1999
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT010799.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004