Avoiding Heat Stress During The Summer Months

Published on Thu, 05/03/2018 - 11:17am

 Avoiding Heat Stress During The Summer Months

 Providing a comfortable environment for cattle is important, especially during the warmer months

 By Aly McClure

During the summer months, it is important to pay attention to our environment, from guarding against pests to protecting our cattle from heat stress, raising farm animals is a full-time commitment. To avoid crisis situations, it’s always a good idea to have a best practice plan in place and to evaluate the history of your area for situations that indicate the potential for heat stress. Every area of the country battles short-term weather conditions - it’s how you handle those conditions that matters.

A lot of people use the terms climate and weather interchangeably, this, however, is incorrect. Each of our communities and farms is affected by short-term weather events. Their long-term sustainability is affected by climate and climate variability caused by natural positioning and earth rotation. For example, dessert is a climate, windy with a high of 95 is the current weather. Your weather is also indicative of your local climate.
Cattle born and raised in certain climates become resilient to the local weather patterns, but during the extreme weather seasons, specifically January-February, and July-August, it is important to evaluate potential stress situations daily. You can do this during the summer by paying attention to the heat index. Remember, though, that dark-hided and finished cattle are more susceptible to heat stress than lighter colored and weighted cattle.
The Cattle Comfort Advisor is a heat index that evaluates the weather conditions across the country and determines the potential for heat stress. The values do not represent exact temperature; they are a way to measure the heat and cold levels an animal is being exposed to ranging -20 (cold Danger) to +120 (Heat Danger.) Cattle are the most comfortable when the index range falls between 15 and 85. When the range begins to creep over the 85 mark that means it is time to start preparing and watching for heat stress, even changing your schedule to work animals during the coolest parts of the day. You can find an active map that is updated with the current index hourly at, www.cattlecomfort.mesonet.us.
Cattle are the most comfortable when the outdoor temperatures hang around 40-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on body condition, hide color, and hair length they do very well in this ideal temperature range. As the temperature begins to rise, they become increasingly uncomfortable. Cattle do not handle heat as well as humans do, they especially have trouble when temperatures reach 90 and above. Feed conversion drops and so does their adaptability. Through the use of some common best practices, you can help create a more comfortable environment for your cattle and potentially lower the risk of decreased performance, in worst case situations, death.
Evaluating heat stress eliminates is crucial to cattle comfort. These include

• Evaluate the long-term weather patterns paying attention to hotter than normal situations that may trigger your cattle comfort plan.
• If you live in an area with high annual rainfall averages, you will need to pay attention to the humidity and low wind conditions. Making sure the animals have access to active air movement is crucial.
Creating a Cattle Comfort plan is easy and once you have it in place, will help you elevate some of the stress on your animals. You can do this by following these guidelines:
• Keep current on marketing your animals, heavier animal’s equal hotter animals, and they should be sold as soon as possible once they reach the desired market weight.
• Do not work cattle during the heat of the day opting for early in the morning or late in the evening.
• Make sure the cattle have adequate access to a cool water supply. Cattle consume an average of 12 to 15 gallons of water a day, this can and does double during the heat of the year. Adequate cool water supply should be your first consideration during hot weather. Adding electrolytes to water tanks is also an option if dehydration is a concern for your herd.
• Maximize the access to airflow for penned animals. With a minimum required air flow of 5-10 mph for optimum cooling, it is very important to keep the cattle in an open and breezy facility.
• Pest control for flies and parasites helps prevent the animals from crowding together, creating even more heat, to protect themselves.
• Consider the shade availability on your property and the need to provide somewhere necessary. With access to shade, the animals will have the ability to relax and remain cooler than if none is available.
A lot of handling cattle heat stress is paying attention to the weather and providing adequate protection from the elements. Planned management and alternative cooling sources such as sprinklers are also a good consideration to have depending on your location and may make a significant difference in the comfort of your animals.
Just as important as managing the heat stress of your cattle is the heat stress on yourself or your personnel. Altering work hours to those of cooler times will benefit humans and animals alike. Make sure your staff is taking adequate breaks during stretches of high heat and hydrating properly. It’s never a bad idea to keep a few bottles of Pedialyte on hand.
As we wander into the dog days of summer, keep an eye on the weather around you, making slight changes on a regular basis will keep you from having to attend to critical situations.