Ways to Manage Heat Stress in Cattle

By Debi Kelly on 18 Aug 2017 | read
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Heat stress is hard on livestock, especially in combination with high humidity. Hot weather and high humidity can reduce breeding efficiency, milk production, feed intake, weight gains, and sometimes cause death. Livestock should be observed frequently and producers should take precautions when hot and humid weather is forecast.

Major management options are providing shade, improved ventilation and a sufficient quantity of water.  Shade for livestock can be provided by trees, buildings or sunshades. Ventilation can be provided for air movement by fans and windows. Sunshades should be high enough to allow air movement.

Providing an adequate source of cool, clean drinking water is essential to help keep animal's internal body temperature within normal limits. It is thought that water temperature affects rumen temperature and thus blood temperature which affects brain centers that control feed consumption. Temperature increases from 70 degrees to 95 degrees can increase total water requirements by about 2.5 times.

Producers using management intensive grazing might consider several options. One option is to rotate
through fields at a more rapid rate. Taller grass tends to be a cooler surface to maintain cattle on than pastures with shorter grass stands. Another option is rotate cattle in the evening rather than the morning. The assumption is that the grass will be consumed in the evening and hopefully the "heat of fermentation" or digestion is mostly dissipated by mid-morning, thereby reducing the heat load produced by the animal. Another possible option is to graze paddocks that allow access to shade during the heat of the day. This will reduce equal distribution of manure throughout the paddock but might be a suitable compromise during excessively hot weather.

Livestock producers should listen to local radio and television weather reports early in the day for warnings that heat stress may become a problem.  (By Dona Goede, MU Extension Livestosk Specialist, Cedar County)