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Reader doesn't believe article on

cattle freezing in Vietnam

Many comments on this one (See below)


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21 Jan 11 - The article you had on cattle freezing in Vietnam is the one I don't believe.  I have a degree in Animal Husbandry and can tell cattle simply don't freeze at anything like the temperatures they quoted. I have personally seen them withstand -55 F.
Hard to know what to believe these days.
Dennis Stevens

Dennis is right, I should have thought of that. I lived on a small farm in Vermont during my teenage years, and cattle don't freeze at minus 4 C.
However, yet another article quotes the Vietnam's Veterinary Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) as announcing huge losses in cattle caused by the cold. (See
So ... something bad was going on in Vietnam, but what it was I'm not sure.
As Dennis says, it's hard to know what to believe these days.

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Not bred to resist the cold

"Cattle in the US are bred to resist the cold," says reader Laurent. "But what do they raise in VietNam? They have wild cattle in the jungle, and all over SE Asia they raise water buffalo."

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Not so unbelievable

Hi Robert,
Cattle CAN die in places like Viet Nam when temperatures drop well below what they are used to just like humans used to a warm clime can get hypothermia from a sudden drop in temperatures. This is why immigrants from hot climates such as India and Africa can be seen bundled up in what we consider shirt-sleeve weather. In Viet Nam, sudden drop in temps to -4 can actually be much colder when wind chill is factored in. So it is certainly believable that the Vietnamese cattle died from the "unusual" cold there.    - C. Peter Davis, Wpg. MB

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Hi Robert,

Regards the cattle deaths in Vietnam. Dennis is perfectly correct to say that some cattle survive -55F. But, there are so many factors to consider. First, what breed were these cattle? All breeds cannot survive temps like that. My Aberdeen Angus could not, I know that for certain. My neighbour's longhorns and highland cattle, maybe.

Secondly, in Vietnam the cattle are left to graze all winter and some farmers I am sure cannot afford supplemental feed so gamble with the weather in this regard. It has been snowing in these regions and quite simply cattle will die if snow and ice cover the grazing and supplemental feed is not provided or not enough is provided especially considering the colder it is the more they need to eat to stay warm hence, what happened in Mongolia last year.. Even if they are providing supplemental feed what quality is it? And... is the supplemental feed grain, silage, straw? Cold stressed cattle need high energy grain to survive. All big influences.

My other guess has to do with water. In these temps any water supply provided will be frozen. Cattle do eat snow but, not if it has an ice crust on it and cattle will and can only eat so much if they do not have sufficient water. What body condition are the animals in? Are they thin or fat? Makes a huge difference. It matters little how extreme the temperature is, if it is even just a degree or a few below freezing for a spell the above contributing circumstances make all the difference.

Therefore, to me, it is not difficult to believe the situation in Vietnam and a general sweeping statement that he knows some cattle can survive -55F means very little frankly. - Helena

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   As concerns the freezing cattle in Viet Nam.  It occures to me that these maybe are not cattle that we might see here, but rather more like water buffaloes.  Those I've seen (admittedly only at zoos) are hairless and skinny.  Quite probably far more adapted to a tropical climate and thus more vulnerable to cold.

  A similar situation occured in South  America with many thousands of dead tropical fish choking the rivers.  Sure in Minnesota, fish live through the winter under the ice.  But, of course, they are evolved to their environment.  There were big fish kills off Florida this year, attributed to cold.  You don't see those in Maine, 'cause those species have evolved to their surroundings as well.

  Then there were those bird deaths - in the southern states, as I remember.  Could be that durring the recent warm stretches the birds forgot how to migrate, properly.  I know that some geese stay put in Canada now (and make a mess with their dropping, I hear).

  The sudden cold has caught out a lot of slackers and humans are not immune.  Witness all the hugger-mugger in the UK, New York and the Southeast.  Last year, my 10 year old banana tree was DOA.

For What It's Worth,           - Steve Campbell

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Have you considered what the Vietnamese consider "cattle" are likely water buffalo, not the sort of "cattle" we have in Vermont or elsewhere in the US. Their cattle are also not used to that kind of cold because they live in the tropics and probably can't handle cold like a midwest steer.

Just a thought.    - Sharon Durbin

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The cattle in Viet Nam likely did not "freeze" to death, that is true. However, animals become adapted to a particular climate. A sudden change, up or down can shock an animal. Animals, especially ruminants can shock badly. It is quite common for cattle to die of shock. One type of shock is shipping fever. Cattle can die from the stress of being shipped by truck or rail. One must periodically unload the animals and give them a bit of a respite. The sudden cold could have very well caused these animal deaths.                                                  - Benjamin Napier

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Good day Robert.  I raised cattle in the inter mountain region of central Nevada.  My cattle were Beefmaster, a combination of Shorthorn, Hereford, and Brahma.  Brahma cattle were selected because of their ability to endure the heat, and humidity, while Hereford are renowned for their ability to withstand very cold conditions. The coldest I saw was 30 degrees below zero F., and all the herd did fine.

I am sure the breed in all South Asia is Brahma. They are well adapted to the hot humid conditions encountered in this region of the world. I would not be surprised if the shock of this cold weather did them in. There may be other causes, but it is no coincidence that the freezing temperatures were a factor.
                                                                          - Dean Yale

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Hi Robert, I can guarantee that Vietnamese cattle (water buffalo by and large) and American servicemen who were in Vietnam (e.g. me), acclimated to the warmth. I suffered hypothermia after several days of hot humid weather, followed by rain and near freezing conditions.

If it can happen to a Minnesota boy like me it can happen to cattle bred for the tropical Vietnam climate!
                                                          - Nelson Skinner

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Hi Robert, I'm no expert, but I was formerly married to a farmer/rancher. As I recall, the digestive system in cattle operates largely on the principle of fermentation. Fermentation can only take place in a proper range of temperatures.

I'm guessing that the cattle died perhaps from a lack of feed, or from a lack of proper temperatures for their digestive process to take place, or a combination of both.  

Lack of water could also have contributed to their deaths. If no one comes to break the ice on top of a water sources, that could make things worse.                    - Laura Davis








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