Beat the Heat in Beef: How to Handle and Spot Heat Stress in Beef Cattle
Are you ready for summer?
As the dog days of summer approach, temperatures begin to rise. With high humidity and hot days, heat stress can be hard on beef cattle. When these animals use additional energy to cool their bodies, feed intake decreases. This can result in reduced weight gain, breeding efficiency, and in some cases death. During hostile weather producers need to be aware of heat stress in their livestock and know how to handle it properly.
First Things First
Be aware of these common symptoms of heat stress:
- Increased respiration rate
- Increased heart rate
- Increased panting
- Staying in the shade or crowding
- Open mouth breathing
- Decreased activity
- Eating less
Second, Beat the Heat in Beef
How can you handle heat stress? Let’s discuss.
Water for the Win
Water requirements for beef cattle increase during summer months. Because cattle lose more water due to perspiration and increased respiration, extra water tanks are needed. Keep water cool and clean to encourage them to consume more as drinking cold water is one of the quickest ways to control and reduce body temperature. You should also make sure your water supply lines can keep up with the increased demand.
While we’re on the topic of water, wetting down pen surfaces can provide a cooler surface for the animals to stand on. Cattle are on their feet for a good chunk of the day; this will help alleviate heat stress. If you don’t have access to a sprinkler, laying down ground straw is a great tip to combat the heat and provide a more comfortable place to stand. Water will be vital this summer, so begin to act now. “Water” you waiting for?
Avoid Work During Extremely Hot Hours
In general, processing cattle can increase their body temperature. Try to avoid working them during the extremely hot hours of the day. Get started early, preferably in the morning before 8:00am, and do so in a shaded facility if possible. Keep working time short, and limit time in confined areas to 30 minutes as the animals will have limited airflow. This is where those sprinklers come in. Consider using them to soak cattle to provide cooling. Make sure water and shade are available, and avoid working steers in the evening – especially after high humidity – as they will need this time to recuperate.
Say Goodbye to Flies
Where’s the fly swatter when you need it? Flies can be a huge hassle for both pasture and feedlot cattle. Stable flies, house flies, horn flies, and face flies can all have a huge impact on beef cattle development. Take action to control these pesky critters by applying repellants and removing fly breeding areas. Biting flies can cause cattle to congregate in one area, which will reduce airflow. Long story short – take control because they need to go.
Air it Out
Increasing airflow can help cattle cope with extreme heat. Although no one can influence wind speed – where is Aeolus when you need him – you can increase your animals’ exposure to wind and air movement. How? Remove wind barriers such as equipment, weeds, and tall vegetation. Keep in mind, cattle that are near harvest are more susceptible to heat stress. They may need to be moved to pens with better airflow.
Provide Proper Feed
Success in every type of beef operation builds on a foundation of good nutrition and rumen health. Beef producers need real-world solutions to achieve healthier cattle, improved production efficiency, and beef enterprise profitability. As mentioned in our earlier dairy heat stress blog, providing a suitable feed additive such as NaturSafe® by Diamond V® can help promote daily gain, immune strength, and overall wellness. Healthy cattle perform better, and a healthy gut can help them cope with the heat.
Following these steps will not only help cattle raisers help prevent death due to heat loss, but can also help avoid lower performance loss due to decreased efficiency and feed intake. By taking the appropriate actions you can beat the heat in beef.
What are you doing to combat heat stress this summer?