NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Protect Cattle from Heat Stress

cattle, heat stress

Submitted by Craig Askim, Extension Agent,, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Heat stress occurs when cattle are not able to dissipate heat. Carl Dahlen, NDSU Extension Beef Specialist, recommends producers do the following to protect cattle from heat stress:

Identify animals most susceptible to heat stress, including feedlot animals closest to the market endpoint, very young and very old animals, and those with dark hides. Know when to intervene. A combination of factors includes temperature and humidity and drive heat stress.  Give each animal access to at least 2 inches of linear water through space in a pen. This means that in a pen with 200 animals you need to have 400 inches of linear water space. If cattle have access to only small water troughs, add temporary space for additional water access during the summer. Evaluate water supply lines and ensure you have sufficient water pressure and flow capacity to keep troughs full during times of peak water consumption. Move the animals' feeding time to late afternoon or evening. This allows rumen fermentation to take place during cooler night temperatures, and increases the cattle's lung capacity during the hotter daytime temperatures.

Provide adequate air movement. Remove unessential wind barriers (portable wind panels, equipment, weeds and other objects) to promote better air movement. Having mounds in pens gives cattle more elevation and possibly access to a microclimate with more wind. Provide shade if possible.  Control flies as much as possible because hot cattle tend to bunch together and flies add to the stress of hot days. Do not work cattle during temperature extremes. If working cattle is absolutely necessary, keep working time as short as possible.

Pay attention to long and short-term weather forecasts and have a copy of the temperature humidity index chart. Determine the potential risk and be prepared, even if the risk is several index units away. For more information, see the NDSU Extension publication "Dealing with Heat Stress in Beef Cattle Operations" at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/as1615.pdf.

Source: Carl Dahlen, NDSU Extension Beef Specialist

Phone: (701) 231-5588 Email: carl.dahlen@ndsu.edu

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