Heat Stress in Cattle

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The temperatures are rising, and with that so are the chances of heat stress harming your cattle. When the temperature rises above 70 degrees, it is time to start paying special attention to your cattle to make sure that they are not feeling the effects of the heat. Heat stressed cattle result in production losses to the producer, as well as lasting effects on the cattle.

Identifying Heat Stressed Cattle

It is very important that a cattle producer is able to tell when his or her cattle are heat stressed. The most obvious sign of heat stress is increased rate of respiration (rapid breathing), followed by open mouthed breathing and panting and drooling. Cattle that are more seriously heat stressed will potentially tremble and lose coordination. Heat stress can also resort in less obvious issues such as reproductive problems like increased losses in the first few weeks after conception, and lower semen quality in bulls under heat stress.

Heat Abatement Strategies

Avoid too much activity- Avoiding things like moving, handling, processing, and transporting cattle is a must when it comes to heat abatement. If cattle need to be moved or handled in any way, especially in the hottest months, it should be done early in the morning or later in the evening when the temperatures are the lowest.

Provide Shade- Shade is important, especially for darker cattle. Shade for cattle can be achieved easily. Access to pasture with trees or open access to barns or buildings can be great for shading cattle.

Provide Water- When temperatures are higher, so is the water requirement for cattle. Additional water sources should be given if possible. Water tanks should be checked frequently to make sure that there are no issues that may be prohibiting the tanks from filling all the way, and to make sure that there is nothing that may be hindering cattle from getting the proper amount of water.

Avoid groups/holding pens- If possible, avoid penning cattle together in groups when they do not have room to space out. When cattle are made to stand grouped together, they will not be able to dissipate heat as well. If cattle must be grouped and held together in the heat, try to provide something like fans or water misters to help keep them cool.

Watch cattle closely- One of the most important things that you can do to avoid heat stress is to watch your cattle closely and look for any abnormality. Recognizing signs early and cooling the cattle off as soon as possible will give your cattle the best chance of a full recovery from a heat stress episode.