Research Shows Ways to Help Cattle Handle Heat Stress

Published on Thu, 04/05/2018 - 11:25am

Research Shows Ways to Help Cattle Handle Heat Stress

 By Steve Weisman

As the summer heat intensifies, dairy and beef producers become concerned about prolonged hot spells and what oppressive heat and humidity can do. It has been well documented that when heat stress rears its ugly head, many negative events can occur. For instance, feed intake can decline, milk production can plummet, immune and metabolic processes can be negatively impacted and growth rates can be affected.  And, yes, cattle can die.

Research has shown that a successful heat stress “game plan” can help minimize the negative effects and even keep cattle on the right track. It all comes down to being proactive prior to the heat stress event. If you wait until the cattle are under stress, it may be too late. Several studies give excellent ideas for dealing with heat stress. One such study at North Dakota State University with C. R. Dahlen, Beef Cattle Specialist and veterinarian C. L. Stoltenow, looks at a wide range of issues in “Dealing with Heat Stress in Beef Cattle Operations.”
Before taking preventative steps, Dahlen and Stoltenow suggest that producers know which of their herd are most susceptible to heat stress: those animals closest to market because of their weight, the very young and the very old, and animals with dark hides. With these categories in mind, producers can have a more watchful eye to take precautionary measures to ward off heat stress problem.
First cattle producers need to look at the environment. To address these issues, successful producers address the need of more water and plenty of space for the cattle to drink. Don’t wait until the heat stress arrives; have plenty of water all of the time. At the same time, don’t overcrowd the situation.
Providing shade and air movement can help with heat stress. If the cattle are in a confined area, providing fans and even sprinklers to help keep cattle comfortable can help minimize heat stress. However, don’t just wait until the heat arrives before using the sprinklers. In other words, get the cattle acclimated to the sight, the sound, the feel of the water.  Another option is to run a hose into the pens and wet/cool the ground upon which they will be lying.  Finally, consider adding bedding to the ground in an effort to reduce the temperature. Adding moisture to this new bedding will further help reduce the temperature.
Another area to look at is when to feed the cattle. Dahlen and Stoltenow suggest moving the animals’ feeding time to late afternoon or evening, which allows rumen fermentation to happen after dark, when the temperatures are cooler. This works well, since a cow’s body heat reaches its height several hours after consumption. If the producer is feeding the herd more than once daily, consider feeding a smaller amount in the morning and a larger amount toward late afternoon.
Both Joe Ward, who is North American Project Manager, and Matt Cravey, Ph.D., PAS and Head of the North American Ruminant Programs here in the United States for Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care (, the animal and nutrition business unit of Lesaffre Yeast Corporation (LYC), concur with the findings of Dahlen and Stoltenow.

Cravey adds, “During these heat stress conditions, always keep the cattle as comfortable as possible and use fresh feed. Increasing the number of feedings will help. In addition, avoid misters spraying onto the food.”
At the same time, research shows that during intense heat occurrences, it is important to address the herd’s diet. It is here that Ward and Cravey spend a lot of their time and emphasis in the research of yeast additives at Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care. As investigative scientists, it is their goal to help provide producers with evidence-based solutions in the form of nutritional additives that enhance animal health and performance. The team’s progress is measured by the most advanced scientific outcomes as well as the field input of experienced nutritionists and veterinarians.
Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care’s U. S. headquarters in Milwaukee, WI and plants in Cedar Rapids, IA and Dothan, AL, are dedicated to investing in research and finding solutions to challenges affecting animal well-being and production.  Some of the company’s areas of research have shown the following:
Improvements in feed digestibility, feed intake and animal performance
Cost-effective nutritional alternatives, providing substitutes for unsustainable or limited feed sources
Reducing the risk associated with bacterial toxins and mycotoxins through binding and detoxification
Enhancement of immune response and digestive health in preventive management
Reduction of pathogen pressure to help limit the risk of antibiotic resistance
Optimization of physiological mechanisms against stress, to support animal welfare

Phileo’s research discussing heat stress
Ward says, “We have documented evidence that shows that Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care’s branded yeast products reduce the negative effects of heat stress. Our studies show that feed efficiency and digestibility are increased using our products.”
According to Carvey, one study showed that by using ActiSaf® live yeast probiotic, daily dry matter intake increased by 2.5 percent, dry matter feed efficiency increased by 3.7 percent and tended to improve rumen pH (6.67 vs. 6.54).
A second study included 32 head of crossbred heifers selected from111 head that had been on feed at a commercial feedyard for 50 days. The heifers weighed approximately 618 pounds. Half of the cattle had been consuming a normal feedlot diet (Controls), while the other half had been consuming the control diet plus a combination of ActiSaf® live yeast plus Safmannan, a premium yeast fraction. This combination is called OptiSaf® Beef. The 32 heifers were shipped to a USDA research facility about 10 miles away and after acclimating to the facility, blood was collected, and water intakes were recorded during thermoneutral conditions. Then the cattle were subjected to moderately severe heat stress conditions for several days. OptiSaf® Beef heifers did, in fact, handle the negative effects of heat stress better than the other group of heifers, showing the following results:
• Increased water intake (~1.5 gallons/hd/da)
• Reduced body temperature
• Tended to have reduced respiration rate (less stress)
• Tended to have less serum cholesterol (indicator of less stress)
Cravey is excited about the results of these livestock studies. “At Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care, we are dedicated to defining the best use of our branded products, including various strains, and proprietary combinations of products, in specific dosages that can help producers produce healthy animals with predictable performances. Our North American team of regional sales managers are seasoned professionals that have a tremendous amount of field experience. The North American technical group interacts with our global counterparts to determine the best field implementation of our branded products for farmers and ranchers. We welcome any questions producers may have about our company and branded products.”  
Ward adds that the research and field studies are ongoing, and he believes that continuing to improve cowherd management by using practices based on evidence-based solutions will help maximize the health and well being of cattle and minimize the effects of heat stress. “At Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care, we have both the research and products to help ensure animal health and producer profitability.”
Producers wanting to learn more about products can go to their local feed supplier and ask for Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care products by name or can contact the company through the website at