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When Managing Heat Stress, Go Back to the Basics

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
July 1, 2015

Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

When Managing Heat Stress, Go Back to the Basics
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn (06/29/15) — Summer is here, and while it’s a great time for Minnesotans to have some fun in the sun, it’s a time that is very hard on our animals.  Heat stress is something all farmers need to be aware of, as it can cause poor performance and even death in livestock.  The major goals of heat abatement are minimize economic loss and maximize productivity, even while the temperatures soar.  It seems like all summer long we talk about this method and that way to handle heat stress, but don’t forget the basics!  Here’s a quick review of the basic principles of dealing with heat stress:

Increase available water. As the temperature approaches heat stress levels, adding extra water sources is a must. Cows will increase their consumption in these conditions and crowding can occur, further driving heat stress issues. If the resources are available, also consider adding sprinklers.

Improve air flow. Particularly inside barns, adequate air flow can be sparse. Increasing air flow is necessary to decrease the effect of heat on your herd. Adding fans and opening the sides of barns (adding nets or curtains) are two simple ways to increase air movement to your cows.

Provide shade from direct sunlight. If cattle are grazed or pasture-based, and no buildings or trees are available for shade, constructing a netted area to block the sun can be a viable option. In addition when shade is provided over the feeding area, it is easier to maintain proper feed intake during hot summer days.

Control insects. Biting insects, such as flies can further stress livestock and interrupt their cooling. If housing or pastures tend to draw insects to cattle during times of heat stress, provide proper insecticides or consider removing the herd from the area.

It’s important to keep in mind that each farm is different; so make sure your heat stress abatement plan fits your operation and your herd. If not handled properly, heat stress can have multiple physical and economic effects on your animals. For more information on helping your livestock beat the heat, please visit the University of Minnesota Extension’s website at


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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