If you’re a kid at the swimming pool, the heat of summer can be delightful. But for cattle, summer heat can be dangerous, even deadly.
Heat stress in cattle is not something to be taken lightly. A few precautionary steps are essential to help cattle through hot weather.
Watch cattle waterers
The most important essential to avoid heat stress in cattle is the availability of clean, fresh water
. Water intake can increase by up to 50 percent during extreme heat. Water not only prevents dehydration, but many animals will place their tongue and nose in the water to help cool the body.
Here are some cattle water tips:
- Consider adding cattle water trough space when existing water sources are crowded. The recommended standard linear space for cattle waterers is 0.75 inches per head. But increasing linear area to two or more inches per head has been shown to decrease heat stress.1
- Monitor calves carefully for water intake. Calves are small, and they get dehydrated quickly. Cows typically drink first, making calves second in line. Make sure there is enough water flow for the calves after the cows have been at the water source. After a few long hours in the heat, the last thing you want is calves to return to empty cattle waterers.
- Ensure water sources are an appropriate height for calves to access. The height of some cattle waterers makes it hard for calves to access, discouraging water intake.
Use cattle fly control
is another essential strategy to prevent heat stress in cattle. Biting, irritation and blood loss caused by flies adds stress to the animal. To protect themselves from flies, cattle often group together. But this behavior can cause animals at the center of the group to become overheated.
Use cattle fly control methods to reduce fly irritation, grouping behavior and help alleviate heat stress caused by grouping.
Here are some go-to cattle fly control methods:
- For pasture settings use fly control mineral for cattle, like Purina® Wind and Rain® Storm® Fly Control Mineral, to target horn flies.
- In feedyard settings, consider a custom Purina® supplement with ClariFly® to control house, stable, face and horn flies.
- In any environment, cleanliness is critical. Scrape manure out of lots, remove excess feed along the outside of bunks and cut weeds to help reduce fly populations.
More hot weather essentials
In addition to water management and cattle fly control, here are a few more essentials to help combat heat stress in cattle:
- Offer shade: Shade can’t always be provided but, when available, it can help reduce heat stress in cattle.
- Consider air flow: A 5-10 mph wind helps to cool the animal’s body temperature. Avoid the use of pens with limited airflow (i.e., pens surrounded by tall cornfields or bales) or remove potential windbreaks. If you do use pens with limited airflow, build mounds within them to help raise cattle to an elevation with airflow.
- Don’t handle cattle in the heat: If possible, consider waiting to process until a cooler day. If you must work animals, do so in the morning when the temperature tends to be lowest.
A few small changes can help keep cattle comfortable when the summer temperatures rise.
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1Mader, T. L. Best Practices for Managing Heat Stress in Feedyard Cattle. Prepared for Certified Angus Beef LLC.