Biology plays a key role in how dairy farmers care for their animals. Calves and cows grow a thicker coat in response to colder temperatures, but to do that, the animals need to be fed a high quality, nutritious diet that provides enough energy for them to grow the additional hair.
The normal temperature for a healthy cow is between 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than humans’ normal temperature. This is in part because, when cows digest their food, the process called fermentation creates heat. One way that cows thermoregulate themselves or keep warm when it is cold out is by eating more food. Just like they do with calves, dairy farmers make sure they balance the cows’ diets appropriately by increasing energy components or amounts of food available to meet the cows’ needs.
“Each winter we increase all of the animals’ access to feed to make sure they can eat enough to not only maintain, but also grow and produce high quality milk. We work really closely with our nutritionist or a cow diet specialist to ensure that all of the animals on the farm are getting the best diet for the season,” says King. Her husband works as a dairy nutritionist as well, giving King extra insight into how nutrition and diet help support cows in the winter. “With the calves,” says King, “we actually increase the amount of milk they are fed each day and include an extra feeding to give them an extra warm boost.”