Dealing with heat stress
As the temperature increases ranchers and feedlot operators start to worry about the well-being of their cattle. However, it is not just heat that plays a part in heat stress; producers need to monitor all weather conditions such as: temperature, humidity and wind, closely and start interventions early in the day, well before noon. If an extended amount of time elapses before cattle are cooled down it may be too hot and late. During times of hot days followed by warm nights there is also a potential that cattle will not have enough time to cool down completely through the night before the sun starts to heat things up again.
Heat stress is one of those conditions that occur almost every summer, and its impact on livestock varies based on genetic makeup, health status, stage of production and previous exposure to heat. Together, these factors can become deadly, when the combination of temperature, humidity, wind speed and cloud cover result in extreme environmental conditions.
Being able to detect when cattle are becoming heat stressed is an important factor. Watch cattle early for signs such as panting or open-mouthed breathing. These are indications that heat stress is occurring and interventions should take place. Avoid working, transporting, or moving cattle during hot weather. If it’s necessary to work or move cattle, do so in the early morning hours only. Cattle are still dissipating their body heat during the evening hours.
Try changing your feeding times from morning to late afternoon. This shifts the heat produced by fermentation to night time, when cattle are better able to dissipate the heat. If you are feeding twice a day then feed 60–70% of the total ration in the late afternoon and the rest in the morning.
Water intake decreases when water in the tanks exceeds 80°F. As a result, ensure that water pipes are not exposed to sun. Pipes should be at least 2 feet underground. Adding a supplemental tank of water to pens of cattle is another step. Check the refill rate of the stock tanks; remember in the summer when many animals are drinking many tanks will be trying to fill at one time in addition to other potential needs for water on the same water supply line. During the summer water intake may exceed 9 gallons per head per day. It is recommended that cattle have a water space requirement of 1.5” per head. For example, 100 head of cattle would need 150 inches of water tank perimeter.
Provide fly control through the use of fly tags, sprays, or other control methods. Cattle will group together to get away from biting flies. Under hot conditions this will aid in increasing heat stress.