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Preventing Heat Stress in Your Cattle Herd

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
July 16, 2014        
           
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

 

Preventing Heat Stress in Your Cattle Herd
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (07/15/14) — As all beef producers know, high summer temperatures can lead to heat stress in their cattle.   Heat stress can cause all sorts of problems, including reductions in breeding efficiency, milk production, feed intake, and weight gains, and can even lead to death. These can lead to negative economic impacts for your operation.  However, your cows and your wallet don’t need to be victims to the heat, follow these five tips for minimizing heat stress in cattle:

  1. Make sure cows have access to cool, clean drinking water.  It’s no secret that livestock should always have access to water, but in summer it is especially important.  A jump in the outside temperature of just 10°-15° can increase total water requirements by 2.5 times.
  2. Rethink your rotational grazing strategies.  One option is to rotate through fields at a more rapid rate as taller grass tends to be a cooler surface to maintain cattle on than pastures with shorter grass stands.  Another option is to rotate cattle in the evening rather than the morning. The thought behind this strategy is that the grass will be consumed in the evening and the heat caused by digestion is mostly dissipated by mid-morning, thereby reducing the amount of heat produced by the animal during the day. Another possible option is to graze paddocks that allow access to temporary shade or trees during the heat of the day.
  3. Understand the weather’s effect on the estrus cycle.  Hot weather can reduce the duration and intensity of the estrus period, and increase the interval between estrus periods.  Additionally, high temperatures can cause a non-implanted egg to be expelled. Expulsion of the embryo due to heat stress does not affect fertility of future estrous cycles but delays when she will calve again.
  4. Handle cattle early in the morning.  It’s no secret that as the morning hours tick away, the temperatures get hotter and hotter.  Aim to move cattle in the morning and try not to move them during the day.  Also, move your cattle calmly, as it can take 20-30 minutes for their heart rate to slow back down after any sort of excitement.  If you are transporting your cattle, load them early in the morning and don’t stop during the heat of the day.
  5. Have an emergency plan in place for extreme heat.  Typically, emergency management involves wetting down the cattle, and perhaps even the roofs of buildings.  If this is deemed necessary, aim to wet animals with large droplets of water, versus a mist, at 20- to 30-minute intervals.

Keeping your cattle cool during the hottest months of the year can be a struggle, but keeping heat stress at bay can greatly benefit your herd.  If you have any additional questions about heat stress, feel free to call me at the Stearns County Extension Office at 320-255-6169.

Contacts

Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
krek0033@umn.edu
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