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Preparing for Winter Involves Looking at La Niña Impacts

Written by Windy Kelley

Near normal temperatures prevailed across Wyoming for September, with well-above normal precipitation throughout much of the state. In contrast, both temperatures and precipitation have been below normal throughout most of the state in October.

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) map from Oct. 24 shows abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions continue to persist in the northeast part of the state. Abnormally dry conditions are also present in much of Sweetwater, Carbon, Goshen and Platte counties. Drought conditions persist in adjacent states including the majority of Montana, North and South Dakota, as well. Southwestern Nebraska is experiencing abnormally dry conditions with some moderate drought – abnormally dry conditions are also present in the northern tier of Cherry County, Nebraska.

View the current USDM maps at weather.gov/riw/drought.

Looking ahead

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) eight- to 14-day forecast for Nov. 7-13, made Oct. 30, indicates below-normal temperatures throughout Wyoming with the greatest chance in the northwestern corner of the state.

The precipitation forecast for the same timeframe is below normal for all of Wyoming except the very northwest corner, which precipitation is expected to be normal.

The odds of La Niña developing between November and February have increased to 55 to 65 percent. As noted in the last Connecting Ag to Climate column, the effects of La Niña are hard to determine, especially for Wyoming – and more recent La Niñas have had a lot of variability in temperature and precipitation.

See the map below, produced by NOAA, to understand potential winter patterns associated with La Niña.

Ag considerations

The short- and long-term forecasts provided above are a reminder that we need to think about and prepare for what is to come this winter – snowstorms, cold and wind. We want to ensure livestock have the best protection to weather what lies ahead and to reach spring in good body condition for calving.

One way you can prepare is to manage for wind to reduce the stress of cold temperatures to your livestock. If your livestock can access trees or creek bottoms these act as natural windbreaks.

Alternatively, you can create windbreaks by stacking hay or tires or purchase moveable windbreaks made of wood or metal. Consider assessing your set-up soon, so you can provide necessary windbreaks before the snow accumulates.

Featured resources

There are a number of resources available to better understand the effects of cold stress on livestock and for additional tips to help your livestock weather the winter.

“Understanding the Effects of Cold Stress on Beef Cows” is a South Dakota State University Extension publication that can be found at goo.gl/j83Lvq.

Colorado State University Extension also published “Severe Cold Weather Rangeland and Livestock Considerations,” which is available at goo.gl/h61Uj3.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry highlighted “Cold Weather Adjustments for Cows – Frequently Asked Questions” at goo.gl/yqMdu9.

Finally Beef Magazine offers, “Four tips for managing cold stress in cattle this winter” at goo.gl/p5LTZF.

Remember to plan, monitor, know your alternatives and adapt as needed.

This article was written by University of Wyoming Extension and USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub Regional Extension Program Coordinator Windy Kelley. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 307-766-2205. The column was reviewed by Wyoming Water Resources Data System Deputy Director Tony Bergantino and Justin Derner of USDA Agricultural Research Service. Dannelle Peck of USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub also reviewed the article.