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By U of A System Division of Agriculture
(Newsrooms: with file art at www.flickr.com/photos/uacescomm/13431692285/)
LITTLE ROCK -- The heat and humidity of an Arkansas summer can take its toll on cattle
and increase management tasks for ranchers, said Tom Troxel, associate head-Animal
Science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Cattle generate heat as they digest their food. Cattle use this heat to regulate body
temperature to 101 degrees Fahrenheit, plus or minus a degree. When it's hot, however,
cattle do everything possible to dissipate this heat. For calves and older cows, managing
heat stress is more difficult.
“Their ability to get rid of heat depends on air temperature, relative humidity, wind,
thermal radiation, and the energy level in the ration,” Troxel said. “Since cattle
sweat very little, the main ways they cool themselves are through breathing, radiating
heat from their bodies, and reducing feed/forage intake. As intake declines, energy
needed for performance also declines, whether for milk production in cows or weight
gain in growing cattle.”
Shade, water and feed all play a major role in managing heat stress in herds.
Shade is important. Provide shade to pasture cattle during hot weather. Direct sunlight raises body temperature
and decreases an animal's ability to dissipate its own heat. Shade can reduce radiant
heat up to 40 percent. Ideally, treed areas used for shade are thick enough to block
direct sunlight but sparse enough to allow natural ventilation.
Pasture managers need to recognize that allowing cattle to lounge in shade all summer
will, over time, result in ‘nutrient creep’ from the pastures to shade areas and also
result in less efficient utilization of pasture.
Water intake is critical. Ambient temperatures in the mid-90s can increase cattle water requirements by 2.5
times compared to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Water trough capacity and refill rate become
very important in this situation. Cattle need 3 inches of water tank space per head
during hot weather. If necessary, introduce additional water tanks ahead of a heat
wave so cattle can get used to them. Make sure that refill rates are adequate so that
cattle intake does not exceed refill capacity. A 1,000-pound animal needs about 1.5
gallons of water per hour during hot weather.
Remember that mature cows nursing calves need 20-30 gallons of water per day during
the summer; stocker calves, 10-20 gallons. A rule of thumb in the summer is a gallon
of water per pound of daily dry matter intake.
Timing of feeding can make a difference. “There’s not a lot we can do about that with pastured cattle,
but if you supplement cattle on pasture, feed toward the evenings,” Troxel said.
If cattle are in a barn, provide adequate ventilation. This may involve opening up
all doors and windows, adding fans, or providing access to an outside pen with shade.
Control flies. This involves not only applying repellants and control products, but also eliminating
fly breeding areas. Biting flies can cause cattle to bunch up which reduces evaporative
cooling via air movement. Fly problems can affect both pasture and feedlot cattle.
Don’t add stress. If at all possible, try to avoid working cattle during extreme heat. Schedule any
handling to be done first thing in the morning as daylight allows. Working cattle
in the evening is not recommended as cattle are still dissipating heat from the day.
Plan major workings, pasture rotations, shipping, etc., in relation to the potential
for heat stress.
“A little common sense during our summers can pay large dividends in percent calf
crop, weaning weights, and gains,” he said.
To learn more about managing livestock, contact your county agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com