Extension offers tips on handling cattle in hot weather

Cattle producers are urged to take precautions to minimize the heat stress placed on cattle.

July 16, 2019

Lincoln, Neb. — As a summer heat wave descends on the Midwest, Nebraska Extension is urging producers to help reduce stress on cattle during hot weather.  

“This July weather pattern offers challenges this week for feedlot operators and cattle producers,” said Kelly Bruns, director of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. “Above average temperatures can create heat indexes that will reach critical stress emergency.”

The Nebraska State Climate Office’s Nebraska Mesonet calculates a cattle comfort index score. It’s estimated that cattle comfort indexes will reach close to 120 in parts of the state the week of July 14. 

“Precautions should be taken to provide additional care to not only cattle on feed but to all animals across the state,” said Stonie Cooper, manager of the Nebraska Mesonet.

With the uncertainty of wind, it’s important for producers to take precautions. Extension recommends using empty pen space to allow cattle greater room and access to water. Supplemental water tanks may be needed to ensure ample water intake to those animals exhibiting signs of stress. Producers should also consider placing cattle in pens where cattle can be away from windbreaks to catch what little wind may occur.

It’s important to watch heat index forecasts closely. Research has shown that manipulating the amount of feed delivered the day before the highest heat index will help cattle keep their internal temperatures lower. This is because the contributions of the heat of fermentation, digestion and metabolism of the feed consumed in the morning become critical on the day that cattle hit the heat stress limit. If the feed is taken away before cattle back away from feed the survival of cattle is greatly improved.

Extension’s Beef Quality Assurance Program has compiled a number of heat stress resources athttps://bqa.unl.edu/heat-stress-resources.

Kelly Bruns
West Central Research and Extension Center

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