Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Tips offered for winter cattle yard preparation

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

During an episode of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) BeefWatch podcast, dated Jan. 2, UNL Extension Beef Systems Educator Dr. Alfredo DiCostanzo discusses how a few hours of preparation can reduce hours of winter headache.

DiCostanzo hails from Mexico, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science, then earned his masters and doctorate degrees at the University of Minnesota (UM) and has spent over 25 years as a faculty member at UM, conducting research and education programs in beef cattle production and management. 

“It might be a little late, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared,” DiCostanzo states. “The checklist I created is simple and easy for anyone to use.”

The checklist

DiCostanzo created a winter cattle yard preparation checklist to assist producers, staff or students when working in winter conditions in a feedlot situation.

The checklist has been broken down into multiple categories, ranging from animal health to equipment, and also includes personal safety and preparedness lists.

He explains, “Revisit the health plan. What tasks have been completed and what might be delayed in the future because of winter weather? It’s always best to prep for the future.”

Animal health

DiCostanzo encourages producers and staff to review and update health protocols with a veterinarian and to obtain prescriptions for prescribed antibiotics, dewormers and supportive therapies.

“Operations need to have a full medicine cabinet, and I recommend purchasing and storing at least  two-thirds of all tags, needles, vaccines, biologics, implants and any other medical equipment needed for the winter,” he notes. 

“It’s also a great idea to review cattle health protocols with appropriate personnel and post them where everyone can see them to  ensure everyone knows what situations require veterinary oversight,” he adds.

Another helpful tip is to remind everyone to rotate stock so  products close to expiration date are  used first and to throw away any expired or opened product.


To reduce stress on cattle from cold, wind and snow, producers can provide wind protection, slope the pen area, ensure sufficient bedding is available and stockpile it closest to where it will be utilized.

“Check water trough insulation, electrical outlets, heating elements and water flow,” he adds. “Working on electrical is not fun in the wind and cold temperatures.”

The list advises producers to relocate posts, gates, cattle handling equipment and implements from areas where they may freeze to the ground, preventing easy access later.

DiCostanzo urges producers to ensure facilities have active protocols on hand for emergency situations and winter weather and to remind everyone of their assignments when an ice or snow storm hits.

“Everyone should have cleaned and reviewed their outdoor clothing supplies and make sure there is sufficient hanging space for these in the shop or office. Hand warmers and extra jackets, coveralls, snow boots, gloves and hats should always be available,” he emphasizes.

“If an animal is sick and staff have to attend to it, if they are not properly prepared, they run the risk of developing hypothermia themselves,” he continues.

He further notes when parking equipment indoors, producers should remind everyone to back in equipment with blades or buckets so when they are needed, they can plow their way out.  

DiCostanzo promotes decision trees for various situations and a protocol handbook to support staff during emergencies, listing procedures they may encounter, including loose or injured livestock, injured workers, extreme weather or power outages.

“Keeping a list of emergency phone numbers and staff numbers posted is key,” he says. “We want staff to feel supported in situations, and we don’t want to burn them out as well.”

“We did have fair warning this year in my area to prepare for the cold. We did a once over in the fall when we had nice warm days but it’s crucial to revisit spots that created problems for us in the past,” DiCostanzo concludes.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

  • Posted in Water and Weather
  • Comments Off on Tips offered for winter cattle yard preparation
Back to top