Keep your cattle cool this summer
June 30, 2016
Summer has definitely arrived. The heat and humidity the last several weeks have been oppressive. Several days were really tough on livestock. There are many procedures you can use to minimize heat stress on our livestock.
High quality drinking water needs to be available to livestock at all times. If the animals are unable to replenish fluids lost as a result of the heat, they may become dehydrated. Many times we have confined animals on watering systems which only allow two or three animals to drink at one time. These animals may block the drinker from other thirsty animals. When planning feedlots make sure you have enough drinking capacity for hot summer days. Some producers actually add extra tanks in the pens for supplemental drinking water in summer. If you have ever watched your cattle you have seen that they are herd animals and all prefer to eat and drink at the same time. This is why flow of water is also important. Small valves in float systems may restrict the flow of water resulting in improper refilling of the waterer. One hundred head of cattle can easily consume 500-1,000 gallons of water per hour over short periods. Some of the new waterway protection programs have required fencing streams, creeks, rivers, and ponds to prevent use as drinking water sources for livestock. I'm not political, but I feel this is wrong. How do we change these programs? As a group we must make our feeling known through cattleman's groups and our legislators. In our area we have dealt with the corps of engineers for years and it seems their control is increasing. Remain active in preserving our property rights.
Shade is important in grazing areas and feedlots. Shelter from the oppressive sun provides relief of about 10°F in temperature. Research has provided several different types of constructed shade sceneries. Some are solid, some are slatted, some are flat and some are angular. All provide relief. Trees in a pasture are a great relief for grazing cattle. I realize it takes a lifetime to grow trees as shade, but hopefully your seniors thought about the future, or you can begin for people following your usage of the land. It is about the land and environment and not about us.
Air movement is important in cooling. It aids in evaporation from the skin as well as from the lungs. Many dairy producers utilize large fans for circulation. These are impractical on the range and although I live only several miles from a wind farm, I don't think I've ever received any breeze from those turbines. Cattle will group on a hilltop so they can benefit from any air movement, like the turbines.
Cattle tend to eat in a group just like we mentioned with water. During the heat of the day, they tend to group and keep as cool as possible. In the evening when the temperature drops, they spread out and graze. In the feedlot we can feed more in the evening and a small feeding in the early morning before it warms up. In very oppressive conditions sprinkling of livestock may be warranted. Try to avoid making muddy wet spots which will result in future problems. Straw and bedding will help the cattle avoid laying in the mud. Good bedding of the mound will help insulate the reclining cattle from absorbing heat from the ground.
The summer heat arrived early this year. Careful observation of your cattle will help you understand how you can best eliminate as much stress as possible from your herd. Drinking water, shade, and air movement are important in cow comfort. Consult with your veterinarian, nutritionalist or extension specialist and evaluate procedures which may be beneficial for your cattle. By minimizing heat stress, you will increase the efficiency of your beef operation and thereby increase the profits of your enterprise.