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Preventing overheating in cattle

When the temperatures soar, keep a close eye on your cattle. If you're uncomfortable, the herd is too hot, and if you're too hot, the herd is in serious danger.

Radio interview source: Dave Sparks, Extension Veterinarian, Oklahoma State University

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

When it gets too hot to be outside, people can just stay in the air conditioning. Livestock don’t have that option, and high temperatures can be deadly. 
 
Dave Sparks is an extension veterinarian at Oklahoma State University. He says cattle don’t sweat, and have an upper critical temperature that is about 20-degrees cooler than humans. So that means if it’s 80-degrees outside, it feels like 100-degrees to cattle. They are also affected more seriously by humidity. A cow that is overheated will be breathing open-mouthed, panting, and slobbering. 
 
Sparks says supplying shade and adequate water is the most important way to prevent overheating.
 
"A rule of thumb I like to use is under heat conditions, cattle will drink up to 1% of their body weight per-hour," he says. "So we’re taking quite a bit of water, maybe. Two things to think about, got to supply good, clean water. And you need to have plenty of access."
 
We’ve all seen cattle standing in a pond on a hot day. Sparks says it may feel good to them, but it makes the water filthy and they won’t drink enough of it.
 
Also keep in mind that cattle can accumulate so much heat, it takes all night for it to dissipate and return their temperatures to normal levels.
 
"One thing we can do is any kind of activity on these cattle, plan it for early, early morning," says Sparks. "Not in the evening. We might feel better, but they don’t. So if you just have to work cattle, do it at 3:00, 4:00 in the morning when they’ve had a chance to dissipate as much of that heat as they can."
 
Sprinkling cattle with water in extremely hot weather helps reduce the heat load by surface evaporation. Use sprinklers that deliver a large droplet because a mist may hurt more than it helps by raising the relative humidity.

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