Managing snow in the feedlot

Nobody enjoys walking in deep snow and ice, and this includes cattle. Snow that isn’t managed in a feedlot creates extra problems for animals, pen surfaces, and runoff control systems.

Warren Rusche is an extension beef feedlot management associate at South Dakota State University. He says you can’t always get out there right after the snow falls but move it as soon as you can with a loader, box scraper or blade.

"If nothing else, if we can scrape around the waterers and the feed apron, that’s going to help prevent some ice buildup," says Rusche. "What we don’t want to do is have a situation where we have even an inch or two of snow that we don’t deal with, it gets packed down, turns to ice, and now we have some footing issues that might be affecting feed intake and water intake."

When you have more time, push snow to the back of the lot where you can clear off a larger area. If the ground isn’t completely frozen, you can fill in some ruts and smooth things out. Another possible solution is to dump feedlot snow onto the fields. However, pen snow will be mixed with manure.

"Make sure though that whatever the environmental regulations might be in your locality that that’s allowable. You wouldn’t want to get into a situation where in some places that may be an issue from a regulatory standpoint," he says. "But, assuming that’s allowable, that we can haul snow out, that’s another option."

If snow accumulation problems are severe, windbreak fences and shelterbelts upwind from the feedlot can help trap snow. Anything that can be done to remove snow and improve lot conditions now will pay off later as the lot surface starts to thaw.