Adverse Weather


2 min read

Creating your plan Plan options Cold stress

A contingency plan for wet weather is crucial for managing your cows. This plan should secure a drier, sheltered area with ample feed for your cows. When designing your plan, consider the welfare of your cows, environmental impact, and its practicability. You could plan for additional feed, shift the cows to drier pastures, or use stand-off pads among other strategies. Remember to factor in cold stress, as it can impact cows with low body condition scores and in wet, windy conditions. Discuss the plan with your team in advance to ensure smooth execution.

During prolonged periods of wet weather where the paddock becomes too wet and muddy, it is important to have a contingency plan.

The contingency plan should ensure cows are in a drier, sheltered area that is easily managed by the team, and includes enough feed or access to feed.

Consider the risk to the environment when choosing an area.

Create this plan with your team prior to winter to ensure that everyone knows when and how the contingency plan will be implemented.

When creating your plan:

  • consider the welfare of your cows, including shelter, the lying surface, and availability of appropriate feed.
  • consider the environment, including potential soil damage, runoff to surface and ground water, and any flood risk.
  • ask yourself, will our adverse weather plan be easily and quickly implementable? And, will we be able to manage with power supply to electric fences?

Contingency plan options include:

  • Budget 10% extra feed for wintering.
  • Shifting the cows to a drier, lower risk paddock.
  • Saving crop in a drier, low risk part of the paddock, especially areas with shelter.
  • Strategically graze the paddock, avoiding wet areas.
  • Standing cows off on a laneway or concrete yard. However, if standing off for more than a few hours, hard surfaces are no better than wet muddy paddocks for standing or lying. Ensure your stand-off surface doesn’t allow effluent to run-off into a water way or drain.
  • Standing cows off in a tree block.
  • Use feed-pads/stand-off pads, or grass strips in crop paddocks to stand cows off.
  • Increase area allocated to herd by giving them another break. This may not be possible on fodder beet. Where possible, continue to feed crop in the diet throughout the adverse weather event. If the herd is off crop for longer than 24 hours you will need to consider re-transitioning them onto the crop, particularly with fodder beet.
  • During wet conditions allow cows more space by giving access to the ground behind the back fence if that ground is suitable for lying.
  • Keep supplement feed and water troughs near the feeding face, not in any swales or hollows, which may create excess mud.
  • Roll out straw for cows to lie down on.
  • If you have limited options, put cows that will be most affected by a period of poor weather (younger, lighter, earlier calvers) into paddocks with the most shelter, best soil condition or best feed.


It's important that you and your team know when to implement your contingency plan. Assessing the main three factors - paddock, animals and weather will help you make an informed decision.

Farmer tip:

When I plan how much feed I need for winter, I add an extra 10 percent to cover extreme weather events.

Cold stress

If a cow is clean and dry and there is little wind or rain, cold stress is rare until ambient temperatures fall below -10°C. The factors that increase the risk of cold stress are:

  • combination of cold temperatures, rain and wind
  • wet muddy ground conditions
  • low body condition score
  • low feeding levels
  • sickness In poor weather, allow for decreased feed utilisation and increased energy or feed demand.

Depending on the BCS of the herd, and the weather situation, wet and windy conditions require an additional 0.5 – 3 kg DM/cow/day of intake.

Cows at BCS 4

  0-3 degrees C 4-7 degrees C 8-10 degrees C
Rain 1kg DM 0kg DM 0kg DM
Wind 2kg DM 1kg DM 0kg DM
Wind and rain 3kg DM 2kg DM 1kg DM
Last updated: Sep 2023

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