Beef producers should act quickly as weather gets hot
Temperatures across South Dakota have climbed into the 90s recently, and beef producers should be alert for signs of heat stress.
This is especially true in feedlot cattle, said South Dakota Cooperative Extension Veterinarian Russ Daly.
“Producers need to monitor weather conditions, both temperature and humidity, closely and start interventions early in the day, well before noon,” Daly said. “By the time the high temperature is reached for the day, it will be difficult to cool off animals adequately.”
Daly said warm, humid nights may not allow cattle to cool down sufficiently from the afternoon heat, making signs of heat stress appear earlier the next day.
Jim Krantz, a South Dakota Cooperative Extension livestock educator from Miner County, said considering recent history with heat, producers should consider heat-stress mitigation steps now.
“Heat stress is one of those conditions that occurs almost every summer, and its impact on livestock varies based on genetic makeup, health status, stage of production and previous exposure to heat,” Krantz said. “Together, these factors can become deadly, when the combination of temperature, humidity, wind speed and cloud cover result in extreme environmental conditions.”
Daly said to watch cattle early for signs such as panting or open-mouthed breathing. These are indications that heat stress is occurring and interventions should take place.
“Avoid working, transporting, or moving cattle during hot weather. If it’s necessary to work or move cattle, do so in the early morning hours only,” Daly said. “Cattle are still dissipating their body heat during the evening hours.”
Adding a supplemental tank of water to pens of cattle is another step Daly recommends, and he said the weight and color of animals are additional considerations.
“Dark-hided and heavier cattle should preferentially be given pens with more airflow,” said Daly. “If pens near shelterbelts with poor airflow need to be used, stock them with lighter-weight, lighter-colored calves if possible.”
Sprinklers can help reduce heat stress, but if sprinklers are used, they should provide large water droplets instead of a mist, Daly said.
“Running the sprinklers for 5-10 minutes at a time, twice an hour, will allow evaporative cooling to take place and is preferred over continuous sprinkling,” Daly said. “Wetting down pen surfaces will provide a cooler surface for animals to stand and also will help alleviate heat stress.”
The South Dakota State University State Climate and Weather Web site offers current cattle stress conditions across the state. The page is available at this link: http://climate.sdstate.edu/cattlestress/cattlestress.asp.
The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service offers a heat stress forecast page at this link: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=17130.
SDSU’s Veterinary Extension Web site has a number of publications on heat stress available at their site, located at this link: http://vetsci.sdstate.edu/VetExt/.
Producers can contact Extension Veterinarian Russ Daly by calling him at (605) 688-6589, or by e-mailing Russell.Daly@sdstate.edu.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News