Battling Heat Stress in Cattle
Well. it’s starting to feel like summer. By the time you read this we will have suffered through our first 100 degree day of the year. At those temperatures heat stress in cattle is a very real concern. In fact, at 80 degrees cattle start showing signs of heat stress - they spend more time in the shade, less time grazing and you will see an increase in water consumption. Cattle’s natural actions can make the heat even more stressful.
Fermentation in the rumen produces heat and increases body temperature. Cattle also tend to bunch up in the shade causing radiant heat, making it hotter in the middle of the group. These groups attract more flies which causes them to move even closer together. All of this adds to heat stress which makes cattle less likely to graze. When cattle don’t graze as much, they are probably not meeting their nutritional requirements. This causes loss of body condition, slow breed back and less milk for growing calves. In addition, if they are too hot to graze, they may not consume mineral at target intake levels. Therefore, if you are using fly control mineral they may no longer receive benefit from it because they are not getting a full dose of fly control.
We can help cattle get through these hot days with proper planning. Don’t let them graze pastures too short before moving the cows. Pastures with taller, thicker grass feels cooler than short grass with soil surface exposed. Supply ample shaded areas, whether it’s trees or portable structures. Ensure a fresh clean water source. A cow can drink up to 30 gallons a day, even more when it is hot, so you might need to place additional tanks in pastures. Place the tanks in shaded areas when possible to keep water cooler and encourage cattle to drink more often. Offer protein supplements to help cows make the most of the forage they take in. Tubs are a very convenient source of protein. Make sure you are feeding a palatable mineral and place the mineral closer to water in shaded areas to keep intakes on target. Try to lessen the flies, whether it is insecticide sprays or face and back rubbers. Anything to get rid of even a few flies will add to their comfort.
The heat is unavoidable, but these few proactive steps can help lessen the impact on your herd. SFG has a full range of tubs, mineral and fly control products available at our locations. Contact SFG and let us help you keep you cattle on track through the hot summer months.