Heat stress in cattle

For cattle to have maximum performance in the summer, they require the same comforts that we do on a sizzling hot day. They should have access to shade with good air flow and ventilation. Water is a big deal, and there should be plenty of it available at all times. Cattle will drink out of a muddy pond if they have to, but it’s better to have cool, fresh water.

Also, on these hot days, watch for signs of heat stress. They can include labored breathing, open mouth breathing and restlessness.

Dr. Brian Lubbers is an associate professor of food animal therapeutics at Kansas State University. He says along with noting daytime high temperatures, you should also monitor the nighttime low temperatures.

"When we get into trouble, especially with the more extreme heat stress events, is when we don’t have those cooler nighttime temperatures. And so, if I’m telling people when are the periods at risk to really watch for heat stress, it’s when those nighttime temperatures are staying high as well because it doesn’t allow cattle to get rid of that heat in the cooler hours," says Lubbers. "And certainly, when we have multiple days in a row of that kind of weather pattern, that’s really a time to be vigilant."

If you don’t have to handle cattle during times of extreme temperatures, it’s best to avoid it.

"But if you have to, make sure you’re handling cattle in the coolest part of the day which is generally early, early morning," he says. "So, if we can do it even a little bit as the sun’s coming up or even a little bit before, that’s a good time because that exercise and motion is just going to make that heat stress worse if they’re already stressed a little bit."

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