How to Manage Heat Stress in Cattle

FBN Network

Jul 08, 2024

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As temperatures rise, look for signs of heat stress in your cattle. It’s important to spot heat-stress symptoms early to provide effective relief to livestock during the hot and humid summer months. 

“Recognizing the effects of heat stress during the hot and humid summer months is important for keeping your cattle healthy and productive,” said Dr. Erika Nagorske, a practicing veterinarian with Southwest Veterinary Services. 

In this blog post, we will cover:

Expect Heat Stress in 2024

AccuWeather is forecasting a hotter-than-normal summer: “From June through August, temperatures are forecast to run at least 2 degrees above historical averages across more than half of the country.” 

Even at only 80℉, cattle endure a significant amount of stress trying to deal with their heat load. Managing heat stress is critical to the well being of cattle and the profitability of your operation. 

Last July, hundreds of cattle in Iowa died during the hottest month ever recorded, reported Reuters. In 2022, as many as 2,000 cattle in Kansas died due to heat stress, said PBS

Signs of Heat Stress

Heat stress happens when cows absorb and create more heat than what they can easily eliminate, explains the University of Minnesota Extension. Cattle don’t sweat effectively. They instead rely on their own respiration to cool themselves. 

Common signs of heat stress in cattle include: 

  • Excessive salivation

  • Panting or mouth breathing

  • Lack of coordination

  • Trembling

Effects of Heat Stress

Some of the most common effects of heat stress include:

Remember that heat stress is not limited to older animals; it can also affect even young calves. But generally, animals with past health issues will be the first to be affected by heat stress — they will also be the most severely affected. 

How Can Flies Exacerbate Heat Stress in Cattle?

Outdoor pests like flies can worsen heat stress by aggravating the animals and causing them to crowd together, hoping the flies will affect their neighbors instead of themselves. 

You’ll often see cattle gathered together in a pen, stomping and kicking manure trying to fight flies away. As cattle attempt to deal with the fly problem, they will avoid lying down or drinking water. Unfortunately, these behaviors further exacerbate heat stress.

Having an effective fly control program in your arsenal will help curb some of the stress that the heat brings to your animals.

Learn more about fly control in our free Grass Turnout Guide.

How to Manage and Treat Heat Stress

When managing and treating heat stress, it’s critical for cattle to have consistent access to the following three things: 

1. Water 

As both temperatures and physical activities rise for animals, so does their need for increased water intake. According to Iowa State University, a 1,000-pound animal needs about 1.5 gallons of water per hour.

During the summer months, automatic water tanks may not be able to keep up with your animals’ hydration demand. Adding a stock tank of clean and cool drinking water to a pen for your animals can provide extra hydration and help stabilize their internal temperature.

2. Shade 

Help cattle reduce their body temperature by providing proper shade during extremely warm days. Shade from trees and buildings is effective when animals have between 20 to 40 square feet of shade.  

3. Sufficient Space and Ventilation 

Spreading your cattle out to provide them with adequate space during high temperature days will likely prevent them from crowding one another and help with heat abatement. 

Also ensure that barns or anywhere else cattle gather have adequate ventilation. This can be as simple as adding fans to provide consistent airflow when necessary. If you do add fans to your ventilation system, it’s important to conduct proper maintenance on your equipment to ensure air flow is not reduced or blocked.

Stay Cool Under Heat Stress with These FBN Products

Recognizing the early signs of heat stress will help you better manage cattle health and productivity and hopefully prevent the problem from becoming too serious. FBN offers a broad portfolio of Animal Health products that can help minimize dehydration, including:

Proudly Farmers First®, FBN seeks to help family farmers grow their operations and become more profitable. One of the ways we do this is through transparent pricing, and we recently introduced product comparisons for the logged-in member experience

If a product requires a prescription, our team can contact your preferred veterinarian on your behalf if you provide their contact information during checkout. Get step-by-step instructions on how to shop FBN’s Animal Health store here.

Find key cattle products and other livestock essentials to keep your herd healthy at FBN.

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FBN Network

Jul 08, 2024

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