Watch Cattle Closely For Signs Of Heat Stress

Watch Cattle Closely For Signs Of Heat Stress

Being able to detect when cattle are becoming heat stressed is very important on those hot summer days.

The heat situation for cattle was in the 'danger' and 'emergency' areas for three days this past week in Iowa. And more hot days are on the way this summer. Cattle producers, especially those with cattle in feedlots, need to take precautions ahead of time. And keep a close eye on the weather factors that create heat stress.

Watch Cattle Closely For Signs Of Heat Stress

The impact of heat stress on livestock varies based on genetic makeup, health status, stage of production and previous exposure to heat, says Dan Loy, director of the Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University. Together these factors can become deadly, when the combination of temperature, humidity, lack of wind and lack of cloud cover result in extreme environmental conditions. 

Keep in mind that the estimates of heat stress are based on four specific weather factors: temperature, wind speed, humidity, and solar radiation.

Cattle producers need to monitor weather conditions and act quickly

"Clearly, when we have temperatures near 100 degrees like we did last week, that kind of heat puts cattle more at risk," notes Matt Deppe, chief executive officer of 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 are this high, cattle producers must also consider other ways to keep their livestock comfortable."

ICA is encouraging cattle producers to take the following advice from Iowa State University's Extension beef veterinarian, Dr. Grant Dewell. He recommends these protective measures:

  • Provide clean, fresh water. Consumption of water can double during heat events. Cattle need at least 2 gal./100 lbs./day during the very hot days. Additionally, make sure there is adequate room for cattle to drink and that the supply lines can provide water fast enough.
  • Pay attention to rations. Shift to feeding a higher percentage of feed in the afternoon and consider lowering the energy content by 5%.
  • Provide shade if possible. Ultraviolet radiation is many times the critical factor for livestock losses due to heat stress.
  • Sprinkle cattle with water. If necessary begin sprinkling cattle with water if signs of heat stress are evident.

Deppe says cattle 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 at http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=21306 . More information on preventing heat stress in cattle is available at http://vetmed.iastate.edu/, and type "heat stress cattle" in the search box on the upper right.

About the Iowa Cattlemen's Association:  The Iowa Cattlemen's Association represents 9,600 beef-producing families and associated companies dedicated to the future of Iowa's beef industry. ICA's mission is "Grow Iowa's beef business through advocacy, leadership and education."

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