Keeping cattle inside on concrete slatted floors can be detrimental to their health and behaviour and is also costly. Therefore, 22 steers of the Swedish Red and White Dairy breed were used to investigate the effect of wintering outdoors on growing cattle. The steers had a mean weight of 310 kg at the onset of the study. During winter, 11 ‘indoor’ steers were housed in pens with concrete slatted floors and 11 ‘outdoor’ steers were kept in a field with access to a shelter and trees. From the end of April until slaughter in September, both groups grazed together. During winter, all steers were given clover silage ad libitum. They were weighed every month. The behaviour of the outdoor steers was recorded from November to the end of March. Outdoor temperature, wind speed and solar radiation were measured continuously. A heated model was used in order to calculate the climatic energy demand. The steers were never observed to shiver. They were not observed to use the shelter during daytime. The most frequently observed behaviour was ‘eating’, followed by ‘standing’. The lower the temperature, the more time the steers were observed lying down (P < 0·01). ‘Moving’ increased with increasing temperature (P < 0·05) as well as with increasing wind speed (P < 0·01). During the grazing period following the experiment, the former outdoor steers grew significantly (P < 0·05) better than the former indoor steers. However, there was no significant difference in overall growth rate from start to slaughter. This study suggests that the winter climate in this part of Sweden (latitude 60°N) did not affect in a negative way the welfare or the growth rate of steers kept outdoors.