How to Manage Heat Stress in Cattle

Dr. Erika Nagorske

Jun 02, 2023

As temperatures rise, start looking out for signs of heat stress in cattle. Because cattle don’t sweat effectively, they instead rely on their own respiration to cool themselves. Even at only 80℉, cattle endure a significant amount of stress trying to deal with their heat load. 

It’s important to spot these symptoms early to provide effective relief to livestock during the hot and humid summer months. 

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.

[Effective Fly Control: Knowing the Different Types of Flies]

Signs of Heat Stress

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 to Manage and Treat Heat Stress

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


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.


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.  

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 Stress

Recognizing the effects of heat stress during the hot and humid summer months is important for keeping your cattle healthy and productive. Recognizing the early signs of heat stress will help you better manage and hopefully prevent the problem from becoming too serious. 

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


The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your animals.

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Dr. Erika Nagorske

Jun 02, 2023

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