Nature's Blanket

February 16, 2021
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I wanted to share this photo I took yesterday morning. It had snowed a little overnight in the first round of the President's Day storm, but had quit a few hours before I went out to run water for the cows. A quick observation will tell you that there is snow on the backs of these cows, even though the snow stopped several hours prior. The untrained eye might assume that to mean these cows are cold. What it tells me is that they are well-insulated! If the sun had been out yesterday morning the snow might have already melted off by this point (external heat source), but since the clouds were heavy that wasn't the case. A cow's normal body temperature is 101 degrees F. Even if it was a couple degrees lower from being outside in the cold, that is ample heat to melt snow...yet here we have unmelted snow on their backs! The reason is a thick hide and some fat underneath the hide hold the heat in, and the thick winter hair coats shed moisture and trap an insulating air barrier next to the skin.  These animals are used to living outside all year. While we always do our best to prevent or ease undue stress, they aren't coddled. The result is a herd of cows that have adapted to survive and even thrive in a wide range of elements.

In the background up higher on the hill you can faintly see groups of cows surrounding big round hay bales and filling their rumens up, which stokes their internal furnaces and keeps them warm. Last night when the snow was falling and blowing again, they had the option to keep on eating or go around the side of the hill near the trees to get a break from the wind. This morning when I went to check on them and run water several were thirsty and came for a drink, but other than a little thirst, they all seemed quite content and really enjoying soaking up the warm February sun! :)

Kate Cobb

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