Smart cows let others worry about the cold
By Lee Benson
Deseret Morning News
COALVILLE — It's dropped to 20 below the past two nights on Brown's Lane just south of town, where Glen Brown's dairy farm juts up against the foothills.
That's as cold as Michael Brown, Glen's son and superintendent of Brown's Summit Valley Dairy, has seen it in a couple of winters.
But you sure wouldn't know it from the cows' reaction.
"One thing about cows," says Michael, "they don't whine.
"They might beller a little after a while if you forgot to feed them, but they don't complain that it's too cold."
The fact is, Michael explains, mother nature gave cows a warm enough coat, even for when it's 20 below and they're outside around the clock. They've got thicker skin than a border crossing guard.
"It's like when you're snowmobiling or skiing and you're dressed for it, you're fine," he says. "Well, so is a cow. She's dressed for the cold. As long as she's got enough to eat, she's happy as a lark."
For the dairy farmer, though, the super-cold weather makes it tougher to make sure a cow gets enough to eat.
First off, you have to understand that your average milk cow eats 60 pounds of feed and drinks 30 gallons of water every day, which means maintaining a massive supply of good chow. When the weather turns cold and frosty, the farmer has to make sure the feed is dry, includes a proper mix of grains and hay, and that the water troughs, which are outside, don't freeze.
"It's all about energy," says Michael. "A milk cow that produces 120 gallons (of milk) a day uses a lot of energy. What you're trying to maintain is that milk production and also enough energy for their own body heat. You want to make sure they can get to that feed bunk and watering trough whenever they want to. It's all about health. The only way a cow is going to freeze to death is if it's sick."