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Reduce heat stress in cattle

Audrey Kittrell Updated: 06/30/2011 @ 10:26am Editorial Intern for Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture Online

With temperatures expected to reach dangerous highs this week in the middle of the country, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension beef veterinarian Grant Dewell urges beef cattle producers to prepare for these weather conditions to maintain herd health.

Facts you should know

  • Feedlot cattle are at higher risk than pastured cattle, which have the ability to seek shade and avoid radiant heat from dirt or concrete surfaces.
  • Temperatures exceeding 80 degrees F cause physiologic stress on cattle. Though they are not at risk of dying, their health can deteriorate.
  • Compared to other animals, cattle cannot dissipate their heat load effectively due to their inability to sweat.
  • Cattle’s core temperature peaks 2 hours after peak environmental temperature.
  • It takes at least 6 hours for cattle to dissipate their heat load.
  • Black cattle and heavy cattle and respiratory compromised cattle have an increased risk of heat stress, and higher chances of death

Managing the heat

Careful monitoring: Don’t work cattle at all in high heat. Finish working cattle before 9 to 10 a.m. during the summer. Do not work cattle in the evenings after it has cooled off.  It takes at least 6 hours for cattle to recover from their heat load.  Cattle should not wait in processing areas longer than 30 minutes.

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