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Red Deer County News

Posted on: December 8, 2021

Why's of Agriculture

cold cows

How can cows be warm with snow on their backs?

It’s hard not to be empathetic for the cows when you see them in the winter, covered in snow while you drive by in your warm vehicle. “Brrrrr!” we think to ourselves. Oddly enough those four-legged critters are like many of us, or myself at least, preferring the colder temperatures to the hot. 

While these winter temperatures may be a bit colder than what cows normally prefer, they have one tool in their belt to help with the cold that we humans don’t possess – a thick, hairy hide. There are arguments here I know, but we’ll ignore them for now. 

One of the most amazing features of a cow is their hairy hide. Like dogs and cats, a cow’s hairy coat grows longer and thicker in the winter. When snow falls, the hair catches a layer of snow which covers the cows. This layer of snow creates warm air pockets between the cow’s skin and the cold outside air and adds additional insulation keeping the cow warm and comfortable through the freezing temperatures. 

Can it get too cold, even for the cows? Yes. When a cold rain is followed by colder temperatures it can be difficult to maintain their warm insulation. And when the herd is large it can be difficult for the farmer to find the barn space for them to warm up all at once. Therefore, farmers make a priority of having additional means of shelter like trees and windbreaks. Not only do they help block the heat of the summer, but the cold of the winter too. 

Learn more about cows, farms, farmers and more with our NEW "Year on the Farm" timeline. Available at: www.rdcounty.ca/YearontheFarm 

Each month we’ll dig into a new ‘Why’ of agriculture. If you have an agricultural question, you’d like me to dig into let me know at: adelaney@rdcounty.ca

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