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Monitor cattle for signs of heat stress

Producers encouraged to watch cattle closely in high heat

When temperatures near 100 degrees, the heat situation for cattle is in the ‘danger’ and ‘emergency’ areas, according to the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center. The estimates of heat stress are based on four specific weather factors: temperature, wind speed, humidity, and solar radiation.

Compared to other animals, cattle rely on respiration more than sweating to cool down, says Matt Deppe, CEO for the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. Wind and cool nights can help, but when temperatures are high, producers must also consider other ways to keep their livestock comfortable.

Iowa State University’s Extension beef veterinarian Grant Dewell recommends these protective measures:


•    Clean fresh water – consumption of water can double during heat events. Cattle need at least 2 gal./100 lbs/day during heat events. Additionally, make sure there is adequate room for cattle to drink and that supply lines can provide water fast enough.


•    Shift to feeding a higher percentage of feed in the afternoon and consider lowering the energy content by 5%.


•    Provide shade if possible. UV radiation is many times the critical factor for livestock losses due to heat stress.


•    If necessary begin sprinkling cattle with water if signs of heat stress are evident.

Deppe says producers who start using fans or providing water sprinklers on their cattle should be prepared to use that process until more moderate temperatures return.

Cattle producers can monitor the forecasted heat stress index and find tips for cooling cattle at the USDA's website. More information on preventing heat stress in cattle is available at Iowa State University's website.

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