Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Caring for cattle during inclement weather

Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Senior Mahaileea Massey petting Fug, a three-week-old orphan calf, at the David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center.
Photo by Nathan Gladden

Winter weather can be hard enough on humans, but how do cattle at the David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center react to it?

Fug is a three-week-old calf that withstood the harsh winter weather all alone from inside one of the Center’s barns. Fug was not accepted by his mother at birth and is fed by bottle three times a day by the workers at the center. Bottle calves are given a rough start at life; they do not grow as well or as fast compared to those that are accepted and stay with the mother.

Birthing, bottle-feeding and vaccinating cattle are all common things for students and workers at the Research Center.

Animal science senior Mahaileea Massey knows her way around the center. Last summer she applied for her internship over the summer and has been working at the center since last February.

“You might be nervous, you might be scared, but you’re gonna experience a lot,” Massey said. “We are here every day or as much as we can be.”

She says on a daily basis, the first thing the students and interns do is start by feeding the cattle. These cattle have different needs based on age, size and their nutritional requirements.

Massey said the cows have a mixed ration bin they feed from. While heifers have their own mixed rations; the same goes for the steers. The little heifers have more protein in their intake to keep a good body weight.

Heifers are female cattle that have not had a calf, a cow is a female that has had a calf and a steer is a young neutered male.

During the snow and ice, there were many aspects involved that differed from normal cattle care. Extra heat lamps were bought for the calves to keep warm. More straw bales were laid down to keep the heat in during the night. Large hay bales were brought over to the entrance of the barns to act as wind blockers. In cold weather, the calves are kept under an awning to stay warmer.

“You got to stay on top of bedding, and like I said, you got to stay on top of where your calves are,” Massey said. “Because if they get stuck in the snow somewhere, chances are, they're not going to get up. It's just one of those things you have to be constantly thinking of.”

Massey said “Cows can get frostbite in their ears.” Workers can tell if this has happened by how rough it is when they feel their ears to tag them.

The Agriculture Department is scheduled to be involved in a visit day March 1. Animal science major and Agriculture Club Leadership Alliance member Katelyn Glueck said they will have a table set up from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for new potential students. There will be another visit day March 27. Students can schedule a tour of the research center by contacting a staff member in the department.

“I am really excited to meet and get to talk to potential students during the visit days,” Glueck said. “It gives the new students a chance to get to know our department.”