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Heat Stress Dangerous To Cattle

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by Ken Root & Whitney Flach

During this time in the middle of summer, heat stress can quickly become a very real and dangerous problem for cattle herds.  Especially, cattle in lots where the heat is intense and wind is blocked. In mid summer weather, with hot nights and high humidity, cattle can accumulate heat that they carry from one day to another.

There are things you can do other than worry.  Water, shade and airflow are key components to reducing this. Kansas State University Extension Veterinarian AJ Tarpoff talks about identifying and reducing heat stress.  He spoke with Ron Hays of the Rural Oklahoma Network. AJ Tarpoff Full Interview

Several factors including temperature, humidity, wind currents and sun radiation all greatly contribute to the overall effects of heat stress. It’s when cattle are unable to cool down periodically that really compounds the impact of these factors, causing major problems.

“One of the seldom talked about and one of the most important is actually the cumulative heat load,” Tarpoff said. “What that means is when we have multiple days of heat stress events, these animals never dissipate all the heat from the day before.”

Dr. Tarpoff, suggests keeping an eye on weather reports to help anticipate potential heat stress events. If you expect to endure one, he says you can identify affected cattle by certain telltale behaviors, like deep breathing and panting, slobbering, and congregating in shaded areas around or in water.

The most effective tool in reducing heat stress is water, Tarpoff says. “Water is the most important in dealing with heat stress,” Tarpoff said. “During heat stress incidents, these animal’s water demands for the body can actually increase by 50 percent. This means every animal in that herd, may require upwards of 20 or more gallons of water per head per day.”

According to Dr. Tarpoff, recommended standards suggest two to three inches of linear trough space per animal. He says to keep your cattle’s water clean, pure and cool.