Ben Holland: Top 10 cattle heat stress busters | TSLN.com
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Ben Holland: Top 10 cattle heat stress busters

Ben Holland, South Dakota State University (SDSU) extension beef feedlot specialist

1. Provide adequate drinking water. A minimum of 1.5 inches of space at water tanks per animal is necessary. In addition, make sure water flows are sufficient to keep up with the requirements of the animal. Above 80 degrees F, cattle may consume more than 2 gallons per 100 pounds of body weight. The water delivery system must also be able to deliver 1-2 gallons per hour for each animal in the feedlot. Make arrangements for additional tanks or emergency water supplies before the stress episode occurs.

2. Minimize cattle movement during hot episodes. Cattle should be in working areas no more than 30 minutes. If cattle transportation or working must occur, do this in the early morning.

3. Consider late-day feeding. If 70 percent or more of the daily feed delivery is delivered 2-4 hours after the hottest part of the day, peak fermentation (which generates heat) occurs during the coolest part of the night. This prevents additional heating of the animals in the day and can allow more heat of fermentation to dissipate. When cattle decrease feed intakes during hot periods, do not try to make that back up in one or two days after the heat episode ends. Utilize gradual increases in feed delivery over a period of several days, and become more cautious as intakes approach the pre-heat levels.



4. Utilize water to wet areas of pens. If pens are wetted, this provides a cool place for cattle to lie at night so heat can dissipate from the cattle. Approximately 10-14 square feet per animal is recommended, and if the pen surface is wetted, apply water to the mound area.

5. Control biting flies by paying attention to detail in pen and feedlot hygiene, removing weeds and brush within 150 feet of feedlot pens, minimizing shallow pools of water and using facility sprays.



6. Utilize sprinklers or fire hoses to cool the cattle. Droplet size is important, and larger droplets are desired, as misting may only increase stress by adding humidity. Cattle sprinkling should begin before the most dangerous part of the heat stress episode begins. Cattle that are not acclimated to being sprayed may become agitated, and very hot cattle may suffer shock when sprayed with cold water.

7. Improve air flow in pens. Structures that prevent cold stress in winter are not good for heat stress in the summer. Tall vegetation and windbreaks can obstruct air flow 10 feet downwind for every one foot in height.

8. Offer shade. Shade should provide 20-40 square feet per animal and, ideally, would have a north-south orientation to prevent mud buildup under the shade. Overcrowding under shade will not result in production benefits, and adequate airflow is paramount under shade.

9. A layer of light colored bedding (corn stalks, stray) on mounds can reduce the heat absorption of the pen surface. This material should also be wetted to help in heat dissipation from cattle.

10. Consider a lower energy ‘storm ration’ to reduce heat production in cattle. In addition, higher fat diets have lower heat increment and may help in heat stress situation.

1. Provide adequate drinking water. A minimum of 1.5 inches of space at water tanks per animal is necessary. In addition, make sure water flows are sufficient to keep up with the requirements of the animal. Above 80 degrees F, cattle may consume more than 2 gallons per 100 pounds of body weight. The water delivery system must also be able to deliver 1-2 gallons per hour for each animal in the feedlot. Make arrangements for additional tanks or emergency water supplies before the stress episode occurs.

2. Minimize cattle movement during hot episodes. Cattle should be in working areas no more than 30 minutes. If cattle transportation or working must occur, do this in the early morning.

3. Consider late-day feeding. If 70 percent or more of the daily feed delivery is delivered 2-4 hours after the hottest part of the day, peak fermentation (which generates heat) occurs during the coolest part of the night. This prevents additional heating of the animals in the day and can allow more heat of fermentation to dissipate. When cattle decrease feed intakes during hot periods, do not try to make that back up in one or two days after the heat episode ends. Utilize gradual increases in feed delivery over a period of several days, and become more cautious as intakes approach the pre-heat levels.

4. Utilize water to wet areas of pens. If pens are wetted, this provides a cool place for cattle to lie at night so heat can dissipate from the cattle. Approximately 10-14 square feet per animal is recommended, and if the pen surface is wetted, apply water to the mound area.

5. Control biting flies by paying attention to detail in pen and feedlot hygiene, removing weeds and brush within 150 feet of feedlot pens, minimizing shallow pools of water and using facility sprays.

6. Utilize sprinklers or fire hoses to cool the cattle. Droplet size is important, and larger droplets are desired, as misting may only increase stress by adding humidity. Cattle sprinkling should begin before the most dangerous part of the heat stress episode begins. Cattle that are not acclimated to being sprayed may become agitated, and very hot cattle may suffer shock when sprayed with cold water.

7. Improve air flow in pens. Structures that prevent cold stress in winter are not good for heat stress in the summer. Tall vegetation and windbreaks can obstruct air flow 10 feet downwind for every one foot in height.

8. Offer shade. Shade should provide 20-40 square feet per animal and, ideally, would have a north-south orientation to prevent mud buildup under the shade. Overcrowding under shade will not result in production benefits, and adequate airflow is paramount under shade.

9. A layer of light colored bedding (corn stalks, stray) on mounds can reduce the heat absorption of the pen surface. This material should also be wetted to help in heat dissipation from cattle.

10. Consider a lower energy ‘storm ration’ to reduce heat production in cattle. In addition, higher fat diets have lower heat increment and may help in heat stress situation.


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