With temperatures in the 90s and humidity reaching 45% or higher, the heat situation for cattle in Iowa is expected in the 'danger' to 'emergency' zone for a couple days this week, according to the USDA's Meat Animal Research Center. The estimates of heat stress are based on four specific weather factors: temperature, wind speed, humidity, and solar radiation.
"It's best that producers plan ahead so they can take quick action if those four factors put parts of Iowa in a high risk zone," says Matt Deppe, the CEO for the Iowa Cattlemen's Association. "Compared to other animals, cattle rely on respiration more than sweating to cool down. Wind and cool nights can help, but when temperatures and humidity are high, producers must also consider other ways to keep their livestock comfortable."
ICA is encouraging cattle producers to take advice from Iowa State University's Extension Beef Veterinarian, Dr. Grant Dewell, DVM.
Dr. Dewell recommends these protective measures:
*Clean fresh water – consumption of water can double during extreme heat. Cattle need at least 2 gallons per 100 pounds a day during heat events. Additionally, make sure there is adequate room for cattle to drink and that supply lines can provide cool water fast enough.
*Shift to feeding a higher percentage of feed in the afternoon and consider lowering the energy content by 5%.
*Provide shade if possible. UV radiation is many times the critical factor for livestock losses due to heat stress.
*Ensure that there are no restrictions to air movement such as hay storage.
*If necessary begin sprinkling cattle with water if signs of heat stress are evident.
Deppe says producers who start using fans or providing water sprinklers on their cattle should be prepared to use that process until more moderate temperatures return.
Cattle producers can monitor the forecasted heat stress index and find tips for cooling cattle here. For more information on preventing heat stress in cattle, visit the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine website, and type "heat stress cattle" in the search box on the upper right.